Definitions

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

  • noun A proverbial expression; a proverb.
  • noun An often-used word or phrase.
  • noun One that represents a type, class, or quality.
  • noun An object of notoriety or interest.
  • noun An epithet.

from The Century Dictionary.

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

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

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

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

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

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

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

Etymologies

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.

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

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

    Irish Blogs

  • 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

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