Get By, to

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Meaning of Idiom

To Get By:

1. to move past someone or something 1,2

2. to manage to survive with very little money or without everything needed to survive. 1

3. to barely manage something.

4. to barely succeed.

5. to go unnoticed or be approved despite being against the rules, having errors or being poor quality. 2


One can get by on (a small amount of money), with something, or without something. This idiom can be used in the positive or negative.


"There was not enough room for my car to get by so I had to sit there waiting for the truck to move."

"The woman asked the man standing in the aisle if she could get by."

"I managed to get by without a regular paycheck but sometimes I had to beg for food."

"Listen, I can't get by on what you're offering me, you're going to have to pay more."

"You barely have any food in the house," said Susan to her father. "I've gotten by on less," he replied."

"I'm not very good at fixing cars but I get by."

"How is Mikey doing in school?" asked Pam. "He's not really applying himself but he's getting by," said Paula.

"I was surprised his remark got by the censors as it was much to risque for daytime television."


This idiom has been used, with its various meanings, since the early 1900's.

1. Spears, Richard A. McGraw-Hill's American Idioms Dictionary. Boston: McGraw Hill, 2008.
2. Ammer, Christine. American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013.

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