Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • adv. For the most part; generally: By and large, the play was a success.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adv. mostly, generally; with few exceptions

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adv. usually; as a rule

Etymologies

Earlier, to (the wind) and off it, in one direction and another (said of the manner of handling a sailing vessel) : by1, toward + large, with the wind abaft the beam.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From sailing: a ship may (or may not) sail well both close by the wind, and large, downwind, with sheets extended. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • George M. Low, a member of NASA’s original Space Task Group and a leading official in the Office of Manned Space who later served as program manager of the Apollo Spacecraft Program Office, once explained the “fantastic amount of preparation” involved: “Although the astronauts along the way did enjoy some fun and games, by and large they were the hardest-working bunch of guys I ever knew.

    First Man

  • The city was divided between two lordships, the prior's half and the earl's half, and from time to time there was some grumbling and discontent over privileges varying between the two, but there was a shared and acknowledged town moot for all, and by and large they rubbed shoulders with reasonable amity.

    Brother Cadfael's Penance

  • Archelaus Sisenes, whose contributions to Antony failed by and large to materialize, was allowed to keep Cappadocia, and was given Cilicia Tracheia, a part of Cleopatra’s grant.

    Antony and Cleopatra

  • In Warsaw, these plainclothes shock troops who arrived by truck, the ones the students called Gestapo, were often workers 'militia, who were told that the student protesters were privileged kids who lived in the best apartments and took trips to Paris, all of which was by and large true.

    1968 the Year that Rocked the World

Comments

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  • I had no idea this had a nautical origin!

    December 10, 2007

  • In all cases or in any case. Originally, this term meant into the wind (by) and with the wind (large).

    December 10, 2007