\ \ [OE] By comes from a prehistoric Germanic *bi, which appears ultimately to be the same form as the second syllable of Latin ambi- (as in ambidextrous), Greek amphí (as in amphitheatre), and Old English ymbe, all of which meant ‘on both sides, round’. The original meaning of by thus seems to be ‘close to, near’. By is the basis of the prefix be-, as in befall and belong.

Word origins - 2ed. . 2005.


Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.