va·​ga·​ry ˈvā-gə-rē How to pronounce vagary (audio) və-ˈger-ē How to pronounce vagary (audio)
ˈva-gə-rē How to pronounce vagary (audio)
plural vagaries
: an erratic, unpredictable, or extravagant manifestation, action, or notion

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The Wandering History of Vagary

Let’s say, hypothetically, that two roads diverge in a yellow wood. And (also hypothetically) sorry that you cannot travel both, you opt for the grassy one less traveled by. What makes all the difference is the century in which this scenario plays out. In the 16th century, it could be said that you “made a vagary” by wandering off the beaten path. Today you might be said to lead a vagabond lifestyle. Vagabond can be traced to the Latin verb vagārī, meaning “to wander” or “to roam,” and it’s likely that vagary comes from that same source. Nowadays, however, the noun vagary is mostly used in its plural form to refer to changes that are difficult to predict or control; modern vagaries have less to do with wandering, and more to do with unpredictability, such as what one might encounter down a path that lies in leaves no step has trodden black.

Choose the Right Synonym for vagary

caprice, whim, vagary, crotchet mean an irrational or unpredictable idea or desire.

caprice stresses lack of apparent motivation and suggests willfulness.

by sheer caprice she quit her job

whim implies a fantastic, capricious turn of mind or inclination.

an odd antique that was bought on a whim

vagary stresses the erratic, irresponsible character of the notion or desire.

he had been prone to strange vagaries

crotchet implies an eccentric opinion or preference.

a serious scientist equally known for his bizarre crotchets

Examples of vagary in a Sentence

the vagaries of a rather eccentric, elderly lady
Recent Examples on the Web Vape shops have spread across the American retail landscape with a bizarre swiftness, seemingly unbeholden to the same vagaries of inflation, customer demand, and local real estate that bind every other kind of storefront small business in the country. Amanda Mull, The Atlantic, 22 June 2023 Third, repeaters should prove capable of swapping this data between nodes in a network in a predictable way and not one too subject to the vagaries of chance. IEEE Spectrum, 13 June 2023 Getty Images Often at the mercy of the dollar, emerging countries are looking to insulate themselves from the vagaries of U.S. Federal Reserve policy by shifting to gold—and away from the greenback. Bychristiaan Hetzner, Fortune, 31 May 2023 As sanitized as the experience could have been, the vagaries of the natural world meant wild cards could, and did, emerge at the drop of a hat. Basem Wasef, Robb Report, 28 Apr. 2023 See all Example Sentences for vagary 

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

Word History


perhaps borrowed from Latin vagārī "to wander, roam" — more at vagabond entry 2

First Known Use

1579, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of vagary was in 1579


Dictionary Entries Near vagary

Cite this Entry

“Vagary.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition


plural vagaries
: an odd or unpredictable idea or happening

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