from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • preposition Close to; next to.
  • preposition With the use or help of; through.
  • preposition Up to and beyond; past.
  • preposition At or to.
  • preposition In the period of; during.
  • preposition Not later than.
  • preposition In the amount of.
  • preposition To the extent of.
  • preposition According to.
  • preposition With respect to.
  • preposition In the name of.
  • preposition Through the agency or action of.
  • preposition Used to indicate a succession of specified individuals, groups, or quantities.
  • preposition Used in multiplication and division.
  • preposition Used with measurements.
  • preposition Toward. Used to express direction with points of the compass.
  • adverb On hand; nearby.
  • adverb Aside; away.
  • adverb Up to, alongside, and past.
  • adverb At or to one's home or current location.
  • adverb Into the past.
  • idiom (by oneself) Without company; alone.
  • idiom (by oneself) Without help.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun A town; habitation; dwelling: now extant only in place-names, especially in the north of England, as in Derby (Anglo-Saxon Deóra bȳ, literally ‘dwelling of deer’), Whitby, etc.
  • An obsolete variant of bi-, be-.
  • An obsolete spelling of buy.
  • noun A thing not directly aimed at; something not the immediate object of regard: as, by the by (that is, by the way, in passing).
  • noun The condition of being odd, as opposed to even; the state of having no competitor in a contest where several are engaged in pairs.
  • noun In cricket, a run made on a ball not struck by the batsman, but which the wicket-keeper has failed to stop.
  • noun In the game of hide-and-seek, the goal: as, to touch the by.
  • noun A ring; a bracelet.
  • An obsolete variant of be.
  • An obsolete variant of bi-, be- (unaccented). See be-.
  • The modern form of bi-, be-, under the accent, as in byspell, byword, etc.
  • Near; close to; beside; with; about: as, sit by me; the house stands by a river.
  • Near, or up to and beyond, with reference to motion; past: as, to move or go by a church.
  • Along (in direction or progress); in or through (the course of); over or alongside of: as, to approach a town by the highway.
  • On; upon; especially, through or on as a means of conveyance: as, he journeyed both by water and by rail.
  • Through. Through the action or operation of, as the immediate agent or the producing or instigating cause: as, the empire founded by Napoleon; a novel written by Cooper; the victories gained by Nelson; a picture painted by Rubens.
  • With the perception of, as the subject or recipient of the action or feeling: as, he died regretted by all who knew him; this was felt by them to be an intentional slight. Through the means or agency of, as the intermediate agent or instrument: as, the city was destroyed by fire.
  • Through the use of; with the aid of, as means: as, to take by force; by your leave.
  • In consequence of; by virtue of.
  • In adjuration: Before; in the presence of; with the witness of; with regard to things, in view of, in consideration of: followed by the name of the being or thing appealed to as sanction: as, I appeal to you by all that is sacred.
  • According to; by direction, authority, example, or evidence of: as, this appears by his own account; it is ten o'clock by my watch; these are good rules to live by.
  • In the measure or quantity of; in the terms of: as, to sell cloth by the yard, milk by the quart, eggs by the dozen, beef by the pound; to board by the week.
  • In comparison: To the extent of: noting mensuration or the measure or ratio of excess or inferiority: as, largerby a half; older by five years; to lessen by a third.


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

[Middle English, from Old English bī, be; see ambhi in Indo-European roots.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Old English  ("being near").


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  • The description says adverb, but isnt this a preposition?

    March 19, 2009

  • Chicago slang: at someone's home, place of work, or similar location. This use of 'by' parallels the French word chez but more likley derives from the German and also Yiddish bei. Examples: We're coming by you tonight. How's by you? I hear they're laying off people by you.

    July 16, 2009