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From Middle English byworde (proverb), from Old English bīword, bīwyrde (proverb, household word", also "adverb), from Proto-Germanic *bīwurdiją, equivalent to by- +‎ word. Compare Latin proverbium, which byword may possibly be a translation of. Cognate with Old High German pīwurti (proverb). Compare also Old English bīspel (proverb, example), bīcwide (byword, proverb, tale, fable), Dutch bijwoord (adverb).



byword (plural bywords)

  1. A proverb or proverbial expression, common saying; a frequently used word or phrase.
  2. A characteristic word or expression; a word or phrase associated with a person or group.
  3. Someone or something that stands as an example (i.e. metonymically) for something else, by having some of that something's characteristic traits.
  4. An object of notoriety or contempt, scorn or derision.
    • 1890, Oscar Wilde, chapter XII, in The Picture of Dorian Gray:
      "I know you and Harry are inseparable. Surely for that reason, if for none other, you should not have made his sister's name a by-word."
  5. A nickname or epithet.


See alsoEdit

Further readingEdit

  • byword” at OneLook Dictionary Search