by-blow

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English[edit]

Alternative forms[edit]

Etymology[edit]

From by- +‎ blow.

Pronunciation[edit]

Noun[edit]

by-blow (plural by-blows)

  1. A blow struck to the side or from the side, as in swordplay; a secondary or incidental strike of any sort.
    • 1910, Arthur Quiller-Couch, "The Copernican Convoy," in Corporal Sam and Other Stories,
      Either commander took speedy advantage of it—Hopton to make a swift diversion into Sussex and capture Arundel Castle (which was but a by-blow, for in a few weeks he had lost it again).
    • 2009, Diarmaid MacCulloch, A History of Christianity, Penguin 2010, p. 732:
      As a by-blow in the course of his relentless campaigns against Louis, Willem gained the three thrones of Britain in 1699 – but what a by-blow this proved!
  2. An illegitimate child; a child of an unknown or unmarried father.
    • 1749, Henry Fielding, Tom Jones, Folio Society 1973, p. 275,
      ‘Nay,’ said the landlady, ‘if I thought he was a gentleman's son, thof he was a bye-blow, I should behave to him in another guess manner; for many of these bye-blows come to be great men, and, as my poor first husband used to say, never affront any customer that's a gentleman.’
    • c. 1892, Herman Melville, "Billy Budd, Foretopman" (novella), in Herman Melville: Selected Tales and Poems, Holt, Rinehart & Winston (1950), p. 298,
      Yes, Billy was a foundling, a presumable bye-blow, and, evidently, no ignoble one.
    • 1971, Brad Darrach, "Knee-High to Ezra Pound," Time, 2 Aug.,
      The best hope has been that friends and family would talk, a hope partly realized in this discreet but perceptive memoir by his illegitimate daughter. . . . Little Mary was a by-blow and an inconvenience.

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