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biv·​ouac ˈbi-və-ˌwak How to pronounce bivouac (audio)
: a usually temporary encampment under little or no shelter
: encampment usually for a night
: a temporary or casual shelter or lodging


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bivouacked; bivouacking

intransitive verb

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

transitive verb

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

Did you know?

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
Whatever the future of downtown may hold, the present offers a grimmer form of walkable density: a growing city of tents and cardboard bivouacs lined up along Skid Row. Curbed, 29 Nov. 2023 The team carrying the stretcher had passed a bivouac site about 500 meters, or 1,640 feet, below the surface on Sunday, the European Cave Rescue Association said. Kevin Shalvey, ABC News, 11 Sep. 2023 Kovacs said lifting Dickey could take several days and that several bivouac points are being prepared along the way so the rescue personnel and Dickey can rest. Lawrence Richard, Fox News, 7 Sep. 2023 Under the proposal, the cost of camping in both traditional campgrounds, like Watchman, and in wilderness areas, like a bivouac along a rock wall, would go up in most instances. Julie Jag, The Salt Lake Tribune, 5 Aug. 2023 The bivouac fell into a ravine, but no one happened to be in the building at the time. Alessio Perrone, Scientific American, 3 Apr. 2023 There is a name for any alcohol-free bivouac of sportsmen. The Editors, Field & Stream, 10 Oct. 2020 When the bivouac is fully formed and the recording has ended, the team remove the ants using the vacuum cleaner and release them again into the chamber where the nest-building process begins all over again. The Physics Arxiv Blog, Discover Magazine, 22 Oct. 2021 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
Maoist rebels bivouacked in valleys beyond Kathmandu, promising to topple the monarch and his parliamentary cronies, and install an egalitarian people’s republic. Sean Williams, Harper's Magazine, 11 Sep. 2023 Thousands of those fighters are now bivouacked in Belarus. John Bacon, USA TODAY, 23 July 2023 Mazzei’s vineyards showed promise but, according to one legend, were destroyed during the Revolutionary War by rambunctious Hessian prisoners bivouacked there. Dave McIntyre, Washington Post, 16 Mar. 2023 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 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'bivouac.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Noun and Verb

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

First Known Use


1819, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1809, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of bivouac was in 1809


Dictionary Entries Near bivouac

Cite this Entry

“Bivouac.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 10 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 noun
biv·​ouac ˈbiv-ˌwak How to pronounce bivouac (audio)
: a temporary camp


2 of 2 verb
bivouacked; bivouacking
: to camp in a bivouac


French, from a German dialect word biwacht, literally, "on guard"

More from Merriam-Webster on bivouac

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