What Does By And Large Mean?

By and Large Meaning

Definition: On the whole; generally speaking.

Something that is true by and large is something that is more often true than not. It is used when giving a general fact that is usually true despite there being some exceptions.

If winters are by and large cold and snowy, the winters are usually cold and snowy but on occasion are warm with no snow.


Origin of By And Large

By and large definitionBy and large was first used as a boating term (also: full and by) to suggest that a ship was sailing first in one direction and then another.

By meant close-hauled, or sailing directly into the wind with all sails full and as close to the wind as possible. Large meant that the wind was hitting the boat from behind at its widest point.

A ship that sailed by and large was one that was moving in both directions in accordance with the weather.

In Mariners Magazine from 1669, we can see an early example of this usage,

  • Thus you see the ship handled in fair weather and foul, by and learge.

The wide range and back and forth motion that was implied here inspired the phrase’s current meaning of in general.

Examples of By And Large

Define by and large In the modern day, people use by and large when talking about something in general.

  • By and large, people represent the places from where they came.


  • By and large, cats are calmer than dogs.

In these two examples, it does not mean that every person represents the place from where the come, and not every cat is calmer than a dog. But, in general, these statements are true.

More Examples

  • “By and large, anything we can do to support marriage is a good thing,” Anderegg said. –Salt Lake Tribune


The phrase by and large is another way to say generally speaking or on the whole. It talks about generalities and not necessarily facts that are universally true.