American English

Definition of by preposition from the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary



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  1. 1near someone or something; at the side of someone or something; beside someone or something a house by the river The telephone is by the window. Come and sit by me.
  2. 2used, usually after a passive verb, to show who or what does, creates, or causes something He was knocked down by a bus. a play by Ibsen Who's that book by? I was frightened by the noise.
  3. 3used for showing how or in what way something is done The house is heated by gas. May I pay by check? I will contact you by mail. to travel by boat/bus/car/plane to travel by air/land/sea Switch it on by pressing this button.
  4. 4used before particular nouns without the, to say that something happens as a result of something They met by chance. I did it by mistake. The coroner's verdict was “death by strangulation.”
  5. 5not later than the time mentioned; before Can you finish the work by five o'clock? I'll have it done by tomorrow. By this time next week we'll be in New York. He should have arrived by now/by this time. By the time (that) this letter reaches you, I will have left the country.
  6. 6past someone or something He walked by me without speaking.
  7. 7during something; in a particular situation to travel by day/night We had to work by candlelight.
  8. 8used to show the degree or amount of something The bullet missed him by two inches. House prices went up by 10%. It would be better by far (= much better) to…
  9. 9from what something shows or says; according to something By my watch it is two o'clock. I could tell by the look on her face that something terrible had happened. By law, you are a child until you are 18.
  10. 10used to show the part of someone or something that someone touches, holds, etc. I took him by the hand. She seized her by the arm. Pick it up by the handle!
  11. 11used with the to show the period or quantity used for buying, selling, or measuring something We rented the car by the day. They're paid by the hour. We only sell it by the yard.
  12. 12used to state the rate at which something happens They're improving day by day. We'll do it bit by bit. It was getting worse by the minute (= very fast). The children came in two by two (= in groups of two).
  13. 13used for giving more information about where someone comes from, what someone does, etc. He's German by birth. They're both doctors by profession.
  14. 14used when swearing to mean “in the name of” I swear by Almighty God…
  15. 15used to show the measurements of something The room measures fifteen feet by twenty feet.
  16. 16used when multiplying or dividing 6 multiplied by 2 equals 12. 6 divided by 2 equals 3.
  17. Idioms
    by the by/bye
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    = by the way
See the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary entry: by