by the by

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Alternative forms[edit]


The second "by" is a noun meaning "a secondary issue". Phrase used since the 17th century.[1]

Prepositional phrase[edit]

by the by

  1. Used to introduce a new topic; incidentally, by the way.
    • 1831, Letitia Elizabeth Landon, Romance and Reality, volume 2, page 70-71:
      Now, Mrs. Clarke was one of those to whom caps and crape were the very morality of mourning—she was not the only one, by the by, with whom propriety stands for principle,...
    • 1892, George Grossmith; Weedon Grossmith, chapter 1, in The Diary of a Nobody:
      She could not get it open, and after all my display, I had to take the Curate (whose name, by-the-by, I did not catch) round the side entrance.
    • 1893, William Morris, The Ideal Book[2]:
      Well, I lay it down, first, that a book quite unornamented can look actually and positively beautiful, and not merely un-ugly, if it be, so to say, architecturally good, which, by the by, need not add much to its price []



by the by (comparative more by the by, superlative most by the by)

  1. Incidental; unplanned.
    Synonyms: accidental, causeless, random; see also Thesaurus:accidental
    • 1990, Susan Sherman, The color of the heart: writing from struggle & change, 1959-1990:
      These sudden rains. Not tropical - with lightning, thunder, great release after hours of tension. But more nonchalant, more "by-the-by." As if the clouds, rushing to get somewhere else, were to drop some rain in passing.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ “And by the way …”, in Grammarphobia[1], March 17, 2010

Further reading[edit]