by and large

Idioms & Phrases

by and large

For the most part, generally speaking, as in By and large the novel was a success. This expression originated in 17th-century seamanship, where it referred to sailing into the wind and then off it, which made it easier to steer. By the early 1700s the term had been broadened to mean "in one direction and another," whence its present meaning of "in general." For a synonym, see for the most part.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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