Language: Old English
Origin: be, bi


1 preposition
by1 S1 W1

who/what does something

used especially with a passive verb to say who or what does something or makes something happen:
I was attacked by a dog.
a church designed by the famous architect, Sir Christopher Wren
We are all alarmed by the rise in violent crime.
interference by the state in the affairs of the Church
his appointment by the BBC as a producer


used to say what means or method someone uses to do something:
You can reserve the tickets by phone.
Send it by airmail.
Some customers prefer to pay by cheque.
by car/train/bus/taxi etc
They travelled to Chicago by train.
by air/sea/land/road/rail etc
All supplies are transported by air.
by doing something
She earns her living by selling insurance.
He was taken from his home by force.


used to say which road, entrance, door etc someone uses to get to a place:
They came in by the back door.
It's quicker to go by the country route.

taking hold

used to say which part of an object or of a person's body someone takes hold of:
He took Elaine by the arm and led her across the road.
She grabbed the hammer by the handle.

writer/composer etc

used to give the name of someone who wrote a book, produced a film, wrote a piece of music etc:
the 'New World Symphony' by Dvorak
a short story by Charles Dickens
Who's it by?


beside or near something:
She stood by the window.
Jane went and sat by Patrick.


past someone or something without stopping:
He walked right by me without even saying hello.
I pass by the farm every day on my way to work.


before or not later than a particular time:
The documents need to be ready by next Friday.
I reckon the film should be over by 9.30.
By the end of the day we had sold over 2000 tickets.
By the time we got home we were tired and hungry.

according to

according to a particular rule, method, or way of doing things:
You've got to play by the rules.
Profits were £6 million, but by our standards this is low.


used to say how great a change or difference is:
The price of oil fell by a further $2 a barrel.
I was overcharged by £3.
Godard's first film was better by far (=by a large amount or degree).


used to give the measurements of a room, container etc:
a room 15 metres by 23 metres


used to show what unit of measurement or quantity is involved in selling, paying for, producing etc something:
Eggs are sold by the dozen.
We're paid by the hour.
She wanted to tear his hair out by the handful.

gradual change

used to say that something happens gradually:
Day by day he grew weaker.
Little by little I was beginning to discover the truth about Garfield.
One by one, the men stepped forward.

quick change

used to say that something or someone is quickly becoming worse, better etc:
The financial crisis was growing more serious by the hour.


used to say that something happens in a particular kind of light:
We walked through the palace gardens by moonlight.

by day/night

during the day or the night:
a tour of Paris by night

job/nature etc

used when you are giving information about someone's character, job, origin etc:
George I and George II were Germans by birth.
Cautious by nature, Simpkin was reluctant to interfere.
Robert Key was a teacher by profession.


in order to visit a person or place for a short time:
On the way, I stopped by the post office.

(all) by yourself

a) completely alone:
Dave spent Christmas all by himself.
b) without help from anyone:
You can't move the furniture all by yourself.


used between two numbers when talking about multiplying or dividing:
What's 48 divided by 4?


used when expressing strong feelings or making serious promises:
By God, I'll kill that boy when I see him!


if a woman has children by a particular man, that man is the children's father:
She's got two children by her previous husband.

by the by

spoken used when mentioning something that may be interesting but is not particularly important:
By the by, Ian said he might call round tonight.

➔ by the way

at way

by, with, in
by is used especially in passives, to say who or what does or causes something She was hit by a truck. a book written by Peter Carey Use with or in after verbs which describe a state rather than an action The room was lit with candles. Her house is always filled with music. The books were covered in dust. Use with to say what tool you use to do something I got the stain out with this brush (NOT by this brush).

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