by and by

See also: by-and-by


Alternative formsEdit


From Middle English by and by (side by side, close together, alongside, on and on, continually, again and again, repeatedly), equivalent to by +‎ and +‎ by.


by and by (not comparable)

  1. After a short time.
    • O, how this spring of love resembleth / The uncertain glory of an April day / Which now shows all the beauty of the sun, / And by and by a cloud takes all away!
    • 1636, William Camden; John Philipot, Remaines concerning Britaine, their languages, names, surnames, 5th edition:
      Two anons and a by and by is an hour and a half.
    • a. 1822, Percy Bysshe Shelley "On the Symposium, or Preface to the Banquet of Plato"
      "You are laughing at me, Socrates," said Agathon, "but you and I will decide this controversy about wisdom by and by, taking Bacchus for our judge. At present turn to your supper."
  2. After an indefinite period.
    Sit down, have a rest, and by and by you'll be feeling better.
    • 1882, Alfred Tennyson, The Promise of May:
      She said herself / She would forgive him, by and by, not now — / For her own sake then, if not for mine — not now —- But by and by.
    • 1907, Ada R. Habershon (lyrics), Charles H. Gabriel (music), “Will the Circle Be Unbroken?”:
      Will the circle be unbroken / by and by, by and by? / Is a better home awaiting / in the sky, in the sky?
  3. (obsolete) Immediately; at once.

Usage notesEdit

  • The meaning of the term has changed from referring to a "near" time (by) to a vaguer range of times, possibly influenced by the use of the term as a noun to refer to the hereafter.



  • Bislama: bambae
  • Tok Pisin: baimbai
  • Kriol: bambai



by and by (plural not attested)

  1. Heaven; the hereafter. Usually preceded with "the sweet."
    I'm sorry ma'am, but your cat's gone on to the sweet by and by.