by and large


Definition of by and large

: on the whole : in general

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Did You Know?

By and large is originally a sailing term meaning "alternately close-hauled and not close-hauled." A ship that is sailing "close-hauled" is sailing as directly into the wind as possible (typically within about 45 degrees of the wind). The "by" part of the phrase means "close-hauled." (This "by" also appears in the term full and by, meaning "sailing with all sails full and close to the wind as possible.") "Large," by contrast, refers to a point of sail in which the wind is hitting the boat "abaft the beam," or behind the boat's widest point. A 1669 example of a variant spelling of "by and large" gives us a sense of the range implied: "Thus you see the ship handled in fair weather and foul, by and learge" (S. Sturmy, Mariners Magazine). The suggestion of a wide range carries over into the term's "in general" sense.

Examples of by and large in a Sentence

by and large, that information is accurate
Recent Examples on the Web But by and large, his art has treated the mere presence of a black sitter as a sufficient corrective to the oversights of European art. Jason Farago, New York Times, "Two Napoleons in Brooklyn, One in Timberlands," 12 Feb. 2020 But by and large, my research came up short in finding city campaigns built from the ground up to recruit full-time employees who work somewhere other than a formal office—and who could pump serious cash into an open-arms economy. Sam Machkovech, Ars Technica, "Tracking the future of remote workplaces: Apps, communication, and liability," 3 Feb. 2020 But by and large, the candidates’ emphasis has been elsewhere. Gloria Dickie, Scientific American, "Will Elizabeth Warren’s Stance against “Junk Science” Matter to Voters?," 29 Jan. 2020 There are still a couple nods to the past for us traditional-minded hunters, but by and large, the latest optics look toward the future. Richard Mann, Field & Stream, "Best New Riflescopes for Hunting and Shooting from the 2020 SHOT Show," 22 Jan. 2020 Hotels and hostels on the waterfront, by and large, are pricier than those in town. Lauren Sloss, New York Times, "Is This the Next Tulum?," 24 Dec. 2019 The country, by and large, doesn’t want what Trump has wrought. Alex Pareene, The New Republic, "The Most Popular Crook in America," 10 Jan. 2020 Banks by and large prefer customers that are the opposite of startups: mature businesses with predictable earnings. Peter Rudegeair, WSJ, "The College Dropouts Who Rode Credit Cards Into The Billion-Dollar Startup Club," 5 Oct. 2018 And Hurts, by and large, wilted in its harsh glare. Michael Casagrande,, "Live updates from Nick Saban after A-Day Game," 21 Apr. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'by and large.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of by and large

1707, in the meaning defined above

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The first known use of by and large was in 1707

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Last Updated

22 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“By and large.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Feb. 2020.

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