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


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)


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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