If there are an odd number of competitors at any stage of a single-elimination tournament, one player is excused from play and continues on as if he had defeated his (nonexistent) opponent. This is called "getting a by". Or "getting a bye". Who knows, maybe it's even "getting a buy", although I doubt it.

My dictionary lists by as meaning "pass" in card-games, so that suggests that spelling. On the other hand, the image of the referee looking from the single player, to the empty and undefended far side of the field, and then back to the player, shrugging, and saying "Bye", is too strong to easily discard.

Like other parts of the anatomy, everyone's got an opinion. I'm looking for a cite.

  • If I show up at a chess tournament with no opponent available, the director waves and says, "Bye!"
    – user7519
    Commented Apr 17, 2011 at 17:25
  • -1 and voted to close as general reference.
    – Hugo
    Commented Nov 19, 2011 at 9:12

4 Answers 4


Here's what you get:

bye 1 |bī| noun 1 the transfer of a competitor directly to the next round of a competition in the absence of an assigned opponent.

[From the New Oxford American Dictionary.]


According to the OED, bye is correct word.

b. The position of an individual, who, in consequence of the numbers being odd, is left without a competitor after the rest have been drawn in pairs.

(OED also points out a few other uses of bye in sports, but with different meanings.)

And while it specifically doesn't clarify whether the competitor advances, the American Heritage Dictionary does point that out.

The position of one who draws no opponent for a round in a tournament and so advances to the next round.

  • 2
    I need to get a better dictionary. Commented Apr 17, 2011 at 17:14

I thought it was bye from my chess tournament days, and it appears it is from Wikipedia.


Bye refers to the practice of allowing a player or team to advance to the next round of a playoff tournament without playing. This is from The New Meriram-Webster's Dictionary. Since tournament is what has been asked for, so for me it is "bye".

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