What Does By the By Mean?

By the By Meaning

Definition: Incidentally; a statement made before comment made in passing.

By the by is a phrase that is said before making a comment that is unrelated to the previous topic of conversation. It may also be used when there is a long silence and the speaker wants to ask a new question. Such types of comments are comments made in passing because they pass in and out of conversation quickly.

This phrase can be written in two ways: by the by and by the bye. Both spellings mean the same thing; by the by is the more common variant.

This phrase is similar to the phrase “by the way.”

Origin of By the By

define by the byIn the 1500s, the word “bye” referred to a side path. Even today, a byway is a side road that goes alongside a highway. These two spellings explain why both spellings of this idiom are correct.

Using this knowledge, saying something is by the bye would mean that it is going by, or along, a side path rather than the main course of conversation.

This phrase is considered to be old-fashioned. More commonly, by the way is used today.

Examples of By the By

meaning of by the byWhen a group of friends is making plans together, one may say,

  • By the by, can I bring my wife to the football game?

He is acknowledging that his wife was not a part of the previous conversation, but he wants to ask whether or not she can come to the game because it is somewhat related to the conversation.

Although by the by is often used to ask questions like this, it can also be used to introduced facts.

Two roommates may be organizing their house, and while organizing, one may say,

  • By the by, I borrowed your dress last night. I will get it washed for you.

Although the topic isn’t fully related to what the roommates are doing, it is somewhat related to the topic of cleaning.

More Examples

  • But even those have gone by the bye now that the push has gone almost to the very last corner of opposition-held eastern Aleppo. – CNN


By the by introduces somewhat-relevant information that may not totally pertain to a conversation.