Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A proverbial expression; a proverb.
  • n. An often-used word or phrase.
  • n. One that represents a type, class, or quality: "Polyester got its déclassé reputation in the 1970s after cheap, poorly made double-knit leisure suits became a byword for bad taste” ( Fortune).
  • n. An object of notoriety or interest: The eccentric poet was a byword in literary circles.
  • n. An epithet.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. a proverb or proverbial expression, common saying; a frequently used word or phrase
  • n. a person who, or a thing that represents something with specified characteristics, byspel
  • n. An object of notoriety or contempt.
  • n. a nickname or epithet
  • n. an object of scorn or derision

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A common saying; a proverb; a saying that has a general currency.
  • n. The object of a contemptuous saying.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A word or phrase used proverbially; especially, a saying used in mockery or disparagement; a satirical or contemptuous proverb.
  • n. Hence An object of general reproach or condemnation; a common subject of derision or opprobrium.
  • n. Synonyms Axiom, Maxim, etc. See aphorism.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. a condensed but memorable saying embodying some important fact of experience that is taken as true by many people

Etymologies

Middle English byworde, from Old English bīword, translation of Latin prōverbium.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Middle English byworde ("proverb"), from Old English bīword, bīwyrde ("proverb, household word", also "adverb"), from bī- ("by-") + word ("word"); probably a translation of Latin proverbium. Compare also Old High German pīwurti ("proverb"), Old English bīspel ("proverb, example"), bīcwide ("byword, proverb, tale, fable"). More at byspel. (Wiktionary)

Examples

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    Matthew Yglesias » Nelson, Collins Slash Education Funding in Stimulus While Touting Stimulus’ Boost to Education

  • The "Manchester school" of political economy has long since passed into reproach if not obloquy with people for whom a byword is a potent weapon, and perhaps the easiest they can handle, and

    Seven English Cities

  • 'All's well' over and over again; 'twas a kind of byword with him.

    Kent Knowles: Quahaug

  • Dario Fo once complained that "political theater has become a kind of byword for boring theater," he certainly wasn't talking about himself.

    Houston Press | Complete Issue

  • Only last month, Brown described Afghanistan as a "byword" for corruption.

    Independent.ie - Frontpage RSS Feed

  • There j'ai fait la connaissance de la mere de Kousma [Footnote: A jocular translation into French of a Russian slang byword "Kousma's Mother," popularly used to indicate a difficult plight.

    Leo Tolstoy: Childhood and Early Manhood

  • "Back in the early 1970s, it was a kind of byword for industrial-relations strife, poor quality, unreliability.

    NPR Topics: News

  • "Access" to credit was the byword of banking regulation under Labour in the UK.

    Gordon Brown's economic "genius" exposed

  • Beirut was at the center of the Lebanese war of 1975-90, when "Lebanonization" became a byword for violent disintegration.

    On the Eastern Shore

  • • In aftermath of shooting, rising skepticism about American presence in Pakistan: Raymond Davis's name has become a byword for a presumed army of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of shadowy American operatives stalking Pakistani streets.

    House spending bill cuts pay for overseas diplomats

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