definition of by by The Free Dictionary


by 1



1. Close to; next to: the window by the door.

2. With the use or help of; through: We came by the back road.

3. Up to and beyond; past: We drove by the house.

4. At or to: stopped by the bakery; came by the house.

5. In the period of; during: sleeping by day.

6. Not later than: by 5:30 pm.


a. In the amount of: letters by the thousands.

b. To the extent of: shorter by two inches.


a. According to: played by the rules.

b. With respect to: siblings by blood.

9. In the name of: swore by the Bible to tell the truth.

10. Through the agency or action of: was killed by a bullet.

11. Used to indicate a succession of specified individuals, groups, or quantities: One by one they left. They were persuaded little by little.


a. Used in multiplication and division: Multiply 4 by 6 to get 24.

b. Used with measurements: a room 12 by 18 feet.

c. Toward. Used to express direction with points of the compass: south by east.


1. On hand; nearby: Stand by.

2. Aside; away: We put it by for later.

3. Up to, alongside, and past: The car raced by.

4. At or to one’s home or current location: Stop by later today.

5. Into the past: as years go by.


by oneself

1. Without company; alone: went by herself.

2. Without help: wrote the book by myself.

by 2


American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.




1. used to indicate the agent after a passive verb: seeds eaten by the birds.

2. used to indicate the person responsible for a creative work: this song is by Schubert.

3. via; through: enter by the back door.

4. followed by a gerund to indicate a means used: he frightened her by hiding behind the door.

5. beside; next to; near: a tree by the house.

6. passing the position of; past: he drove by the old cottage.

7. not later than; before: return the books by Tuesday.

8. used to indicate extent, after a comparative: it is hotter by five degrees than it was yesterday.

9. (esp in oaths) invoking the name of: I swear by all the gods.

10. (Mathematics) multiplied by: four by three equals twelve.

11. (in habitual sentences) during the passing of (esp in the phrases by day, by night)

12. (Surveying) placed between measurements of the various dimensions of something: a plank fourteen inches by seven.


13. near: the house is close by.

14. away; aside: he put some money by each week for savings.

15. passing a point near something; past: he drove by.

16. Scot past; over and done with: that’s a’ by now.

17. Scot aside; behind one: you should put that by for later.

n, pl byes

a variant spelling of bye1

[Old English bī; related to Gothic bi, Old High German , Sanskrit abhi to, towards]


the internet domain name for

(Computer Science) Belarus

Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged, 12th Edition 2014 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2014



prep., adv., adj., n., pl. byes. prep.

1. near to or next to: a home by a lake.

2. over the surface of, through the medium of, along, or using as a route: She came by air.

3. on, as a means of conveyance: to arrive by ship.

4. to and beyond a place; past: We drove by the church.

5. during: by day; by night.

6. not later than: I’ll be done by five o’clock.

7. to the extent or amount of: taller by three inches.

8. from the evidence or authority of: By his own account he was there.

9. according to: a bad movie by any standards.

10. through the agency of: The booklet was issued by the government.

11. from the hand or invention of: a poem by Emily Dickinson.

12. as a result or on the basis of: We met by chance.

13. in support of; for: to do well by one’s children.

14. (of things in succession) after; next after: piece by piece.

15. (in multiplication) taken the number of times as that specified by the second number, or multiplier: Multiply 18 by 57.

16. (in measuring shapes, spaces, etc.) with another dimension of: a room 10 feet by 12 feet.

17. (in division) separated into the number of equal parts as that specified by the second number, or divisor: Divide 99 by 33.

18. in terms or amounts of: Apples are sold by the bushel.

19. begot or born of: She had a son by her first husband.

20. (of quadrupeds) having as a sire: Equipoise II by Equipoise.

21. one point toward on the compass: N by NE.

22. to, into, or at: Come by my office this afternoon.


23. at hand; near: The school is close by.

24. to and beyond a point; past: The car drove by.

25. aside; away: to lay by money for retirement.

26. to or at someone’s home, office, etc.: Stop by later.

27. past; over: in times gone by.


28. situated to one side: a by passage.

29. incidental: a by comment.

n. Idioms:

1. by and by, before long; presently.

2. by and large, in general; on the whole.

Also, bye.

[before 900; Middle English; Old English ]





a combining form of by1: by-product; bystander. Compare bye-.

Random House Kernerman Webster’s College Dictionary, © 2010 K Dictionaries Ltd. Copyright 2005, 1997, 1991 by Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.


1. used in passives

By is most often used in passive sentences. If something is done or caused by a person or thing, that person or thing does it or causes it.

This view has been challenged by a number of researchers.

I was surprised by his anger.

He was knocked down by a bus.

When an -ed word is used like an adjective to describe a state rather than an action, it is not always followed by by. Some -ed words are followed by with or in.

The room was filled with flowers.

The walls of her flat are covered in dirt.

2. used with time expressions

If something happens by a particular time, it happens at or before that time.

I’ll be home by seven o’clock.

By 1995 the population had grown to 3 million.

Be Careful!
By can only be used with this meaning as a preposition. Don’t use it as a conjunction. Don’t say, for example, ‘By I had finished my lunch, we had to leave‘. You say ‘By the time I had finished my lunch, we had to leave’.

By the time I went to bed, I was exhausted.

3. used to describe position

You can use by to say that someone or something is at the side of a person or object.

I sat by her bed.

She lives in a cottage by the sea.

Be Careful!
Don’t use “” with the names of towns or cities. Don’t say, for example, ‘I was by Coventry when I ran out of petrol‘. You say ‘I was near Coventry when I ran out of petrol’.

Mandela was born near Elliotdale.

4. saying how something is done

By can be used with some nouns to say how something is done. You don’t usually put a determiner in front of the noun.

Can I pay by credit card?

I always go to work by bus.

He sent the form by email.

However, if you want to say that something is done using a particular object or tool, you often use with, rather than “”. With is followed by a determiner.

Clean the mirrors with a soft cloth.

He brushed back his hair with his hand.

You can use by with an -ing form to say how something is achieved.

Make the sauce by boiling the cream and stock together in a pan.

We saved a lot of money by booking our holiday online.

Collins COBUILD English Usage © HarperCollins Publishers 1992, 2004, 2011, 2012

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