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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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
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun 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, "Coronavirus in N.Y.C.: Region Is Now an Epicenter of Global Pandemic," 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, "Survivor’s Guilt in the Mountains," 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, "Preview: ‘Ghost Recon Breakpoint’ refines co-op experience with the right group," 3 Sep. 2019 Right, competitors check their bikes at the bivouac after the end of the Stage 3. Marc Martin,, "Titan Desert 2018 | A 385-mile ride through the Moroccan desert," 3 May 2018 Right, competitors check their bikes at the bivouac after the end of the Stage 3. Marc Martin,, "Titan Desert 2018 | A 385-mile ride through the Moroccan desert," 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, "Harvey Makes Landfall in Louisiana as Waters Keep Rising in Texas," 30 Aug. 2017 This marker commemorates the last Confederate bivouac north of the Mason-Dixon Line, in . Bonnie Berkowitz, Washington Post, "Can you guess where these Confederate monuments were built?," 18 Aug. 2017 To gain admission at that time, a young climber had to demonstrate technical prowess, sleep outside on a mountain ledge (known as a bivouac), pass written tests and show a command of mountaineering history, art and literature. Michael Powell, New York Times, "Scaling the World’s Most Lethal Mountain, in the Dead of Winter," 9 May 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, "Movie Crowds Stay Away. Theaters Hope It’s Not for Good.," 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., "At the base of a canyon, every fire season can be a gamble," 23 July 2019 During the Civil War, troops bivouacked in farm fields. John Kelly, Washington Post, "Farm team: Imagine grapes on the Mall and corn across the District," 1 May 2018 At night, the POWs bivouacked in fields Frederick N. Rasmussen,, "Marion Bence, World War II B-17 gunner and POW," 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, "Is the White House a 'Dump'? It Used to Be," 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, "Paul Molitor drafts a favorite in-law to raise Opening Day flags," 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, "Tens of thousands rally across Russia in protests against corruption," 12 June 2017

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

Time Traveler

The first known use of bivouac was in 1809

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Cite this Entry

“Bivouac.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 Apr. 2021.

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More Definitions for bivouac



English Language Learners Definition of bivouac

: a temporary camp or shelter

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