by Meaning in the Cambridge English Dictionary Cambridge dictionaries logo

Meaning of “by” in the English Dictionary

"by" in British English

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bypreposition

uk   us   /baɪ/
  • by preposition (AGENT)

A2 used to show the ​person or thing that does something: The ​motorcycle was ​driven by a ​tinybald man. We were ​amazed by what she told us. I'm ​reading some ​shortstories (written) by Chekhov. The ​book was ​translated by a well-known ​author. I ​feltfrightened by the ​anger in his ​voice.

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  • by preposition (METHOD)

A2 used to show how something is done: They ​travelledacrossEurope by ​train/​car. She did the ​decorating (all) by herself (= ​alone, without ​help from anyone). We went in by (= through) the ​frontdoor. Do you ​want to be ​paid in ​cash or by ​cheque? He ​learnedEnglish by ​listening to the ​radio. Suddenly, she ​grabbed him by the ​arm (= took ​hold of this ​part of his ​body). I ​refuse to ​live by (= ​following)theirrules.

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  • by preposition (POSITION)

B1 near or at the ​side of: A ​smallchildstoodsullenly by her ​side. He ​wanted to ​keep her ​close by him always. The ​policewomanwalked by (= past) them without saying a word.

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  • by preposition (NOT LATER THAN)

A2 not ​later than; at or before: She had ​promised to be back by five o'clock. The ​application must be in by the 31st to be ​accepted. By the ​time I got to the ​station the ​train had already gone.

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  • by preposition (MEASUREMENT)

B2 used to show ​measurements or ​amounts: Our ​officefloorspacemeasured twelve ​metres by ten (= was twelve ​metres in one ​direction and ten in the other). Their ​wages were ​increased by 15 ​percent. Freelance ​workers are ​paid by the ​hour (= for every ​hour they ​work). These ​phones have ​sold by the thousand (= several thousand have been ​sold).minute by minute/hour by hour/day by day, etc. (also by the minute/hour/day, etc.) used to say that something ​increases or ​changes with every ​minute, ​hour, ​day, etc. that ​passes: The ​deathtoll from the ​hurricane was ​climbingminute by ​minute/by the ​minute. The ​credibility of the ​campaign has deterioriated ​month by ​month/by the ​month.minute-by-minute/hour-by-hour, etc. describing or ​showing what ​happens every ​minute, ​hour, etc.: a minute-by-minute ​timeline of the ​incident The ​bookpaints a ​detailed, week-by-week ​portrait of his father's ​illness.
by nature, profession, trade, etc. used when ​describing someone's ​character, ​job, etc.: She is, by ​nature, a ​sunny, ​positivekind of ​person. He's a ​plumber by ​trade. She was, by ​profession, a ​lawyer.
be all right/fine by sb If something is all ​right/​fine by someone, they ​agree that it can ​happen: "I'd ​rather go ​later." "That's ​fine by me." If it's all ​right by you, I'd like to ​leave now.

byadverb

uk   us   /baɪ/
Idioms
(Definition of by from the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)

"by" in American English

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bypreposition

 us   /bɑɪ/
  • by preposition (CAUSE)

used to show the ​person or thing that ​causes something to ​happen or to ​exist: The ​car was ​driven by a ​short, ​bald man. I’m ​reading some ​shortstories by Chekhov. I took her ​umbrella by ​mistake.
  • by preposition (METHOD)

used to show how something is done: They ​thought about ​flying to Boston but ​decided to go by ​car. She did the ​repairwork by herself (= without ​help). Do you ​want to be ​paid in ​cash or by ​check? He ​learnedEnglish by ​listening to the ​radio.
  • by preposition (ACCORDING TO)

according to: By my ​watch, it’s 2 o’clock. The ​students were ​listed by ​name.
  • by preposition (NOT LATER THAN)

not ​later than; at or before: She ​promised to be back by 10 p.m.
  • by preposition (MEASUREMENT)

used to show ​measurements or ​amounts: Their ​wagesincreased by 12%. The ​roommeasures 15 ​feet by 20 ​feet.
  • by preposition (DURING)

during: We ​traveled by ​night and ​rested by ​day.

bypreposition, adverb [not gradable]

 us   /bɑɪ/
near, beside, or (in ​distance or ​time) past: A ​smallchildstoodquietly by her ​side. Claire ​waved as she ​drove by. As ​time went by, she ​became more ​attached to him.
(Definition of by from the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)
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