by and by

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English[edit]

Alternative forms[edit]

Adverb[edit]

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, edition 5th:
      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, Charles H. Gabriel, “Will the Circle Be Unbroken?” (song): 
      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.
    • Bible, Matthew xiii. 21
      When [] persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended.

Usage notes[edit]

  • 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.

Descendants[edit]

Translations[edit]

Noun[edit]

by and by (uncountable)

  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.

Translations[edit]