a word or phrase associated with some person or thing; a characteristic expression, typical greeting, or the like.
a word or phrase used proverbially; common saying; proverb.
an object of general reproach, derision, scorn, etc.: His crimes will make him a byword through the ages.
an epithet, often of scorn.

before 1050; Middle English biworde, Old English biwyrde. See by (adj.), word

1. slogan, motto. 2. maxim, apothegm, aphorism, saw, adage. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
byword (ˈbaɪˌwɜːd)
1.  a person, place, or thing regarded as a perfect or proverbial example of something: their name is a byword for good service
2.  an object of scorn or derision
3.  a common saying; proverb
[Old English bīwyrde; see by, word; compare Old High German pīwurti, from Latin prōverbium proverb]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Word Origin & History

O.E. biword "proverb," formed after L. proverbium, or Gk. para-bole.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Example sentences
Iwo became a byword for fighting while it was still being fought.
The industry became a byword for mendacity, secrecy and profligacy with
  taxpayers' money.
It was a surprising appointment for a company that was then a byword for
It has become a byword for spiralling costs and delays.
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