Fly By: Definition Meaning and Origin

Last Updated on
June 22, 2023

The phrase "fly by" means to pass quickly or swiftly. When time "flies by," it passes rapidly. This idiom suggests that something moves fast, like a bird in flight.

In short:

"Fly by" suggests that something is happening or has happened more quickly than anticipated.

What Does "Fly By" Mean?

"Fly by" is an idiomatic expression that conveys the idea that time or an event is passing or has passed quickly or rapidly. The phrase alludes to the speed and fleeting nature of flying objects, illustrating how swiftly time can seem to pass in certain circumstances.

Let's delve into its essential meanings and usages:

  • It often expresses the notion that time appears to speed up during enjoyable activities or meaningful experiences.
  • It can also apply to any event, period, or experience that seems to occur or finish quickly.
  • While typically employed in casual or informal settings, the phrase is versatile and can be used in various contexts to describe the rapid passage of time.

Where Does "Fly By" Come From?

The phrase "fly by" is largely derived from the basic concept of flight. When we see something flying by, like a bird or airplane, it usually moves quickly and disappears from sight within moments. This fleeting nature of flight has become a metaphor for describing how swiftly time can seem to pass. Hence the idiom "time flies." The first recorded use of the term "fly by" in this context is not well-documented, but its usage has been widespread and common in English-speaking cultures for decades.

Historical Example

"We fly by night 'mongst troops of spirits.
We fly by night 'monest troops of spirits."

- Macbeth, William Shakespeare, 1623

10 Examples of "Fly By" in Sentences

Here are some examples of the idiom in use:

  • The weekend flew by so fast. It feels like it was Friday, just yesterday.
  • As we were having so much fun at the party, time just seemed to fly by.
  • My bad for not realizing how quickly the deadlines would fly by before we could complete the project.
  • The assistance you gave really helped the hours fly by. It was much appreciated.
  • The movie was so engaging that the two hours seemed to fly by.
  • Watching the scenery fly by from a train window can be quite relaxing.
  • As my work here is done, I'm surprised at how quickly the day flew by.
  • The summer vacation always flies by too quickly for schoolchildren.
  • Time flew by faster than expected when I was on leave, and now I'm back to work.
  • I can't believe how quickly the reunion flew by, but it was great to see you again.

Examples of "Fly By" in Pop Culture

The phrase "fly by" often appears in pop culture, generally conveying the idea of rapidly passing the time.

Let's explore some instances:

  • The song "Fly By Night" by Rush from their album "Fly By Night" (1975) uses the phrase to signify rapid, overnight changes.
  • "His fitness report says it all. He flies by the seat of his pants. Completely unpredictable" is a line from the movie Top Gun (1986).
  • The book "Fly by Night" by June Crebbin is a children's story about two owls living at the edge of a wood.
  • "Fly by Night" is a 2018 movie that revolves around a taxi driver who operates an extortion racket under the guise of providing taxi services.

Other/Different Ways to Say "Fly By"

There are several alternative expressions that convey a similar meaning to "fly by."

Here are some of them:

  • Time flies
  • Pass in a flash
  • Speed by
  • Whizz by
  • Race by

10 Frequently Asked Questions About "Fly By":

  • What does "fly by" mean?

"Fly by" is an idiom implying that something, often time, is passing or has passed more swiftly than expected.

  • How can I use "fly by" in a sentence?

You can use "fly by" to describe anything that seems to occur or finish quickly. For example, "We were having so much fun at the event that the evening just flew by."

  • Where does the idiom "fly by" come from?

The idiom "fly by" is derived from the concept of flight, representing something moving quickly and disappearing from sight soon, like time.

  • Does "fly by" only apply to time?

No, while "fly by" is often used to describe the swift passage of time, it can also apply to any event or experience that seems to occur or conclude rapidly.

  • Is "fly by" a positive or negative phrase?

"Fly by" is neutral. It simply describes the rapidity of an event or period, which can be either positive or negative depending on the context.

  • Can "fly by" be used in formal writing?

While "fly by" is often used in casual or informal conversations, it can also be used in formal writing if the context is appropriate.

  • Can "fly by" be used to describe future events?

Generally, "fly by" is used to describe past or ongoing experiences. However, in some cases, it could be used for future events in a speculative way, such as "I bet the concert will fly by."

  • What is the opposite of "fly by"?

Phrases like "drag on," "crawl by," or "slow-paced" can be considered opposites of "fly by," indicating something that seems to take a long time to pass or complete.

  • Can "fly by" refer to physical movement?

Yes, "fly by" can also describe something or someone moving quickly past a certain point, as in "The car flew by."

  • Is "fly by" a universally understood concept?

Yes, the concept of time or events passing quickly is a universal experience and is easily recognized across different cultures and languages, even if the specific phrase "fly by" is English.

Final Thoughts About "Fly By"

The idiom "fly by" effectively communicates the perception of time or events passing swiftly. It's a handy phrase for capturing the ephemeral nature of experiences, especially those that end sooner than we would like.

Here's a quick recap:

  • The phrase "fly by" denotes the swift passage of time or the quick unfolding of events.
  • The term is neutral and can be used in various positive and negative contexts, formal and informal.
  • Though primarily used to describe past or ongoing experiences, it can also be used speculatively for future events.

It's a powerful reminder to cherish every moment and seize opportunities, as time can "fly by" before we realize it. This phrase can also be a comforting assurance during difficult times, knowing they will "fly by" eventually.

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