By dint of


What's the meaning of the phrase 'By dint of'?

By means of; as a result of – especially by the means of force.

What's the origin of the phrase 'By dint of'?

‘Dint’ is now an archaic word and only exists, as it were, by dint of this particular phrase. ‘Dint’ itself derives from the Old English ‘dynt’. In current language the word has migrated to ‘dent’. How do we get to the meaning ‘as a result of’ from the word ‘dint’? That’s done simply via the earliest version of the phrase, ‘by dint of sword’, which was used when a result was obtained by the use of force. This is an ancient usage and dates from at least the 14th century, when it was recorded in The romances of Rouland and Vernagu, circa 1330:

“Alle the londes that were in Spayne, With dint Of swerd wan Charlmain.”

It was some centuries before ‘by dint of’ came to be used without the specific mention of swordplay, although that citation is itself fairly old – Samuel Butler’s narrative poem Hudibras, 1664:

“Chace evil spirits away by dint Of Cickle, Horse-shoe, Hollow-flint.”

Trend of by dint of in printed material over time

Gary Martin is a writer and researcher on the origins of phrases and the creator of the Phrase Finder website. Over the past 26 years more than 700 million of his pages have been downloaded by readers. He is one of the most popular and trusted sources of information on phrases and idioms.

Gary Martin

Writer and researcher on the origins of phrases and the creator of the Phrase Finder website. Over the past 26 years more than 700 million of his pages have been downloaded by readers. He is one of the most popular and trusted sources of information on phrases and idioms.