[too-bahy-fawr, -fohr, -buh-]
two units thick and four units wide, especially in inches.
Informal. lacking adequate space; cramped: a small, two-by-four room.
Informal. unimportant; insignificant: Theirs was a petty, two-by-four operation.
a timber measuring 2 by 4 inches (5 × 10 cm) in cross section, when untrimmed: equivalent to 1 5/8 by 3 5/8 inches (4.5 × 9 cm) when trimmed.

1880–85, Americanism Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
Cite This Source Link To two-by-four
World English Dictionary
1.  a length of untrimmed timber with a cross section that measures 2 inches by 4 inches
2.  a trimmed timber joist with a cross section that measures 1½ inches by 3½ inches

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Example sentences
Or maybe from the two-by-four that smacked him in the head earlier this morning.
Bars cover the windows, and a stout two-by-four secures the back door.
Driver's ed in that case might need to be a two-by-four upside the head.
One bit of advice for repairing tree-damaged roofs was to use tarps secured by
  screwed-on two-by-four boards.
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