by and large
adverb | BYE-und-LAHRJ

 

 

Definition

 

 

 

: on the whole : in general, generally speaking

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Did You Know?

 

By and large is originally a sailing term meaning “alternately close-hauled and not close-hauled.” A ship that is sailing “close-hauled” is sailing as directly into the wind as possible (typically within about 45 degrees of the wind). The by part of the phrase means “close-hauled.” (This by also appears in the term full and by, meaning “sailing with all sails full and as close to the wind as possible.”) Large, by contrast, refers to a point of sail in which the wind is hitting the boat “abaft the beam,” or behind the boat’s widest point. A 1669 example of a variant spelling of by and large gives us a sense of the range implied: “Thus you see the ship handled in fair weather and foul, by and learge” (S. Sturmy, Mariners Magazine). The suggestion of a wide range carries over into the term’s “in general” sense.

 

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