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


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

Middle English byworde, from Old English bīword, translation of Latin prōverbium.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

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.


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

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

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  • 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.

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

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

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

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  • • 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.

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