By The Way (BTW) – Usage & Meaning

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Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

One idiomatic expression we commonly find in emails, correspondences, and stories is by the way. But what does it mean? I use it almost every day but without thought.

Let’s go over the definition and usage of the idiom by the way. Learn its origin and examples of how to use it in a sentence.

“By the Way” Meaning

httpsgrammarist.comphraseby the way and btw

By the way is a phrase used to introduce a new subject. We use it to consider the idea or give further information about the topic. The phrase also helps add something that the speaker has just thought of.

By the way is considered an idiomatic expression because we don’t use its literal definition.

It is also a prepositional phrase, where by is the preposition and the way is the object of the preposition.

Some alternatives or related words to by the way include:

  • Incidentally
  • It is worth noting
  • It might also be observed
  • Speaking of which
  • This brings to mind
  • Apropos
  • Additionally
  • Secondarily
  • Furthermore
  • En passant
  • Parenthetically

The abbreviated form of by the way is BTW.

When Did People Start Saying “By the Way”?

By The Way Ngram
By the way usage trend.

By the way literally means by the side of the road and was first used in the 10th century.

Around the year 1000, the phrase came to mean during one’s journey or while going along. This is the definition used by Shakespeare in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1590).

“Let’s follow him, and by the way let us recount our dreams.”

Its use in a figurative sense was recorded in the 16th century. Shakespeare also uses this new definition in The Merry Wives of Windsor (1598).

“In truth, sir, and she is pretty, and honest, and gentle, and one that is your friend, I can tell you that by the way.”

Is It Rude for Someone to Say “By the Way”?

By the way is considered informal, so it sounds rude or unprofessional when used in formal writing. Try alternative phrases, such as it is worth noting or it might also be observed. You can also say speaking of which or this brings to mind.

“By the Way” Sentence Examples

  • Oh, by the way, we’re out of milk.
  • I’d love to come to visit this summer! By the way, how’s your mother doing?
  • Oh, by the way, we’re out of milk.
  • I’d love to come to visit this summer! By the way, how’s your mother doing?
  • It’s bad luck to see the bride before the wedding, by the way. So, maybe you should wait to speak to her until after the ceremony.
  • By the way, I never actually met Mary Poppins. It was just an actor at Disney World.
  • I need you to stay late, by the way. We’re behind on those reports, and there’s no way I can finish them myself.

By the Way Summary

By the way is an idiom that means incidentally or it is worth noting. Its figurative definition only emerged in the 16th century. Before this, the phrase meant by the side of the road or during one’s journey. What other idiomatic expressions do you want to learn?