biv·​ouac | \ ˈbi-və-ˌwak How to pronounce bivouac (audio) , ˈbiv-ˌwak \

Definition of bivouac

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a usually temporary encampment under little or no shelter
2a : encampment usually for a night
b : a temporary or casual shelter or lodging


bivouacked; bivouacking

Definition of bivouac (Entry 2 of 2)

intransitive verb

1 : to make a bivouac : camp a place for the troops to bivouac
2 : to take shelter often temporarily

transitive verb

: to provide temporary quarters for They were bivouacked in the gym during the storm.

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Synonyms for bivouac

Synonyms: Noun

Synonyms: Verb

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In his 1841 dictionary, Noah Webster observed bivouac to be a French borrowing having military origins. He defined the noun bivouac as "the guard or watch of a whole army, as in cases of great danger of surprise or attack" and the verb as "to watch or be on guard, as a whole army." The French word is derived from the Low German word biwacht, which translates to "by guard." Germans used the word specifically for a patrol of citizens who assisted the town watch at night. Today, bivouac has less to do with guarding and patrolling than it does with taking shelter.

Examples of bivouac in a Sentence

Noun soldiers setting up a bivouac by the stream Verb the army bivouacked for the night by the lake survivors of the tornado were bivouacked in the church basement
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun During that event, Jacky Ickx autographed the hood at the Dakar bivouac, a fitting tribute for any desert-driving Porsche. Robert Ross, Robb Report, 25 Apr. 2022 One of my favorites of his is a picture of Napoleon the Second at a bivouac with his army and a horse is prominent. Degen Pener, The Hollywood Reporter, 2 Mar. 2022 The governor on Sunday announced measures intended to prepare for a wave of patients, including setting up temporary hospitals in three New York City suburbs and erecting a massive medical bivouac in the Jacob Javits Center on Manhattan’s West Side. Jesse Mckinley, New York Times, 22 Mar. 2020 Days, even weeks, in a tent or a bivouac, the hours empty of all but numbing chores and the howling of the wind. Nick Paumgarten, The New Yorker, 24 Feb. 2020 This is where our team met up to start missions or head to the bivouac to make supplies. Gieson Cacho, The Mercury News, 3 Sep. 2019 Right, competitors check their bikes at the bivouac after the end of the Stage 3. Marc Martin,, 3 May 2018 Right, competitors check their bikes at the bivouac after the end of the Stage 3. Marc Martin,, 3 May 2018 Parts of the facility, more accustomed to housing oil and gas trade shows than an exhausted bivouac, smelled of urine and pet feces. Russell Gold, WSJ, 30 Aug. 2017 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb And now comes the coronavirus, which has prompted people to bivouac in their homes, theaters to put in place social-distancing restrictions and studios to postpone most theatrical releases through the end of April. New York Times, 14 Mar. 2020 At the end of Pine Creek Canyon Road, nearly 800 girls are bivouacked at Camp Lo-Mia, a retreat for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints., 23 July 2019 During the Civil War, troops bivouacked in farm fields. John Kelly, Washington Post, 1 May 2018 At night, the POWs bivouacked in fields Frederick N. Rasmussen,, 5 Sep. 2017 Kansas volunteers bivouacked in the East Room to protect Abraham Lincoln, and the president tested rifles on the grounds around the house. Daniel S. Levy / Time Books, Time, 2 Aug. 2017 The 82nd Airborne was bivouacked in the Ardennes Forest, vastly outmanned and outgunned against a surprise German counteroffensive in the snow and ice. Brian Murphy, Twin Cities, 3 Apr. 2017 World War I troops gave tips on bayonet thrusts, and a company of infantry in War of 1812 gear bivouacked not far from a blacksmith and an impressive array of medieval swords. Andrew Roth, Washington Post, 12 June 2017 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'bivouac.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of bivouac


1819, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1809, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1

History and Etymology for bivouac

Noun and Verb

French, from Low German biwacht, from bi by + wacht guard

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Time Traveler for bivouac

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The first known use of bivouac was in 1809

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bivouac sheet

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Last Updated

2 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Bivouac.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 May. 2022.

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More from Merriam-Webster on bivouac

Nglish: Translation of bivouac for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of bivouac for Arabic Speakers


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