First Name
in the U.S.
since 1880
Last Name
in the U.S.
in 2010
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Meaning and Origin

What does the name By mean? Find out below.

Origin and Meaning of By

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Webster's Unabridged Dictionary
preposition By
  1. In the neighborhood of; near or next to; not far from; close to; along with; as, come and sit by me." By foundation or by shady rivulet He sought them both." [Milton.]
  2. On; along; in traversing. Compare 5."Long labors both by sea and land he bore." [Dryden.]" By land, by water, they renew the charge." [Pope.]
  3. Near to, while passing; hence, from one to the other side of; past; as, to go by a church.
  4. Used in specifying adjacent dimensions; as, a cabin twenty feet by forty.
  5. Against.(Obs)
  6. With, as means, way, process, etc.; through means of; with aid of; through; through the act or agency of; as, a city is destroyed by fire; profit is made by commerce; to take by force.

Note: To the meaning of by, as denoting means or agency, belong, more or less closely, most of the following uses of the word: It points out the author and producer; as, “Waverley”, a novel by Sir W.Scott; a statue by Canova; a sonata by Beethoven. In an oath or adjuration, it indicates the being or thing appealed to as sanction; as, I affirm to you by all that is sacred; he swears by his faith as a Christian; no, by Heaven. According to; by direction, authority, or example of; after; -- in such phrases as, it appears by his account; ten o'clock by my watch; to live by rule; a model to build by. At the rate of; according to the ratio or proportion of; in the measure or quantity of; as, to sell cloth by the yard, milk by the quart, eggs by the dozen, meat by the pound; to board by the year. In comparison, it denotes the measure of excess or deficiency; when anything is increased or diminished, it indicates the measure of increase or diminution; as, larger by a half; older by five years; to lessen by a third. It expresses continuance or duration; during the course of; within the period of; as, by day, by night. As soon as; not later than; near or at; -- used in expressions of time; as, by this time the sun had risen; he will be here by two o'clock.

Note: In boxing the compass, by indicates a pint nearer to, or towards, the next cardinal point; as, north by east, i.e., a point towards the east from the north; northeast by east, i.e., on point nearer the east than northeast is.

Note: With is used instead of by before the instrument with which anything is done; as, to beat one with a stick; the board was fastened by the carpenter with nails. But there are many words which may be regarded as means or processes, or, figuratively, as instruments; and whether with or by shall be used with them is a matter of arbitrary, and often, of unsettled usage; as, to a reduce a town by famine; to consume stubble with fire; he gained his purpose by flattery; he entertained them with a story; he distressed us with or by a recital of his sufferings. see With.

Note: ☞ The common phrase good-by is equivalent to farewell, and would be better written good-bye, as it is a corruption of God be with you b'w'ye).

Etymology: OE. bi, AS. big, near to, by, of, from, after, according to; akin to OS. & OFries. bi be, D. bij, OHG. , G. bei, Goth. bi, and perh. Gr. 'amfi`. E. prefix be- is orig. the same word. √203. See (pref.) Be-

adverb By
  1. Near; in the neighborhood; present; as, there was no person by at the time.
  2. Passing near; going past; past; beyond; as, the procession has gone by; a bird flew by .
  3. Aside; as, to lay by; to put by .
adjective By
Out of the common path; aside; -- used in composition, giving the meaning of something aside, secondary, or incidental, or collateral matter, a thing private or avoiding notice; as, by-line, by-place, by-play, by-street. It was formerly more freely used in composition than it is now; as, by-business, by-concernment, by-design, by-interest, etc.
Other Dictionary Sources
  1. In reserve; not for immediate use ("put something by for her old age")
  2. So as to pass a given point

From Middle English by, bi, from Old English (“by; near; around”), from Proto-Germanic *bi (“near; by; around; about”). Cognate with West Frisian by (“by; near”), Afrikaans by (“at; by; near”), Saterland Frisian bie (“near; by”), Dutch bij (“near; by”), German Low German bi (“by; near; at”), German bei (“by; near; at”).

  1. (card games) A pass

by was also found in the following language(s): Afrikaans, Czech, Danish, Japanese, Lojban, Lower Sorbian, Middle English, Norwegian Bokmål, Norwegian Nynorsk, Polish, Swedish, and West Frisian

Notable Persons Named By

By Speece was a baseball player. By was born on January 6th, 1897 in West Baden Springs, Indiana. He breathed his last breath on September 29th, 1974.


By the Fireside is an experimental music and alternative rock record producer and singer-songwriter. He plays Guitar, Keyboard instrument, and Vocals. His career lasted from 2004 to 2004. By was given the name By The Fireside . By is also known as BTF.



By was born on May 2nd, 1910. He breathed his last breath on April 12th, 2001.


Notable Persons With the Last Name By

John By was an engineer. John was born on August 7th, 1779 in Lambeth, London, England. He died on February 1st, 1836.


Holocaust was born in Wildflecken.


Where is the name By popular?

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Popularity of By as a last name

The map shows the absolute popularity of the name By as a last name in each of the states. See other popular names in New York, Texas, or Wyoming.

Ethnicity Distribution

Ethnicity By U.S.
  White 16.00% 64.26%
  African American 12.89% 11.96%
  Asian, Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander 64.00% 4.85%
  American Indian and Alaska Native 0.00% 0.69%
  Two or More Ethnicities 3.56% 1.76%
  Hispanic or Latino 3.56% 16.26%

Of Last Name By

People with the last name By are most frequently White, African American, or Asian, Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander

Entire United States

Fun Facts about the name By

  • How Popular is the name By? As a last name By was the 83,541st most popular name in 2010.
  • When was the first name By first recorded in the United States? The oldest recorded birth by the Social Security Administration for the name By is Thursday, September 5th, 1889.
  • How unique is the name By? From 1880 to 2017 less than 5 people per year have been born with the first name By. Hoorah! You are a unique individual.
  • Weird things about the name By: Your name in reverse order is Yb. A random rearrangement of the letters in your name (anagram) will give Yb. How do you pronounce that?
  • How many people have the last name By? In 2010, the U.S. Census Bureau surveyed 225 people with the last name By.
  • How likely are you to meet someone with the last name of By? Chances are, most people haven't met someone with By as their last name since less than 1 person in 1.3m people have that last name. If you know one, consider yourself lucky!

What Bys Have Visited This Page?

Name poster for By

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  • Sources:
  • U.S. Census Bureau: Frequently Occurring Surnames from the Census 2000 (public domain).
  • 1913 Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary via the Collaborative International Dictionary of English (License)
  • Other Dictionary Sources: WordNet 3.1 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University (License).
  • Wiktionary: Titles and License.
  • Notable persons via Wikipedia: Titles and License. Click each image for the attribution information.