va·​ga·​ry | \ ˈvā-gə-rē How to pronounce vagary (audio) ; və-ˈger-ē, vā- How to pronounce vagary (audio) ; also ˈva-gə-rē How to pronounce vagary (audio) \
plural vagaries

Definition of vagary

: an erratic, unpredictable, or extravagant manifestation, action, or notion

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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

The Wandering History of Vagary

In the 16th century, if you "made a vagary" you took a wandering journey, or you figuratively wandered from a correct path by committing some minor offense. If you spoke or wrote vagaries, you wandered from a main subject. These senses hadn't strayed far from their origin, as vagary is probably based on Latin vagari, meaning "to wander." Indeed, in the 16th and 17th centuries there was even an English verb vagary that meant "to wander." Nowadays, the noun vagary is mostly used in its plural form, and vagaries have more to do with unpredictability than with wandering.

Examples of vagary in a Sentence

the vagaries of a rather eccentric, elderly lady

Recent Examples on the Web

The vagaries of American tort law were on display in San Francisco last week as six jurors decided that Bayer AG is liable for $80.3 million in damages for allegedly causing a Sonoma man’s non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "Jackpot Junk Science," 31 Mar. 2019 On a more humanistic level, Ackley’s presence in Seattle’s camp is a poignant example of the vagaries of baseball and how the tug of the game is not easily relinquished. Larry Stone, The Seattle Times, "‘I’m in a way better spot’: Back with Mariners on minor-league deal, Dustin Ackley is hopeful, and realistic," 20 Feb. 2019 But here’s a new chance to get Mr. Trump’s signature on a legislative fix, at least for some years, without relying on the vagaries of courts and executive orders. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "Pelosi’s Dreamer Pawns," 21 Jan. 2019 Though silly and fun, KSP also works as a reasonably solid and wonderfully interactive demonstration of the vagaries of orbital mechanics—and that, dear readers, gave us an idea. Lee Hutchinson, Ars Technica, "Video: Astronaut Scott Kelly teaches orbital mechanics with Kerbal Space Program," 28 Dec. 2018 Their exact origins remain elusive, obscured by the vagaries of myth and memory. James Mcauley, Town & Country, "A Secret Paris Museum and an Aristocratic Family Decimated by the Holocaust," 9 Feb. 2017 But part of the difference might just be down to the vagaries of translation. Kyle Orland, Ars Technica, "How do you pronounce “NES”? Nintendo throws a wrench in the debate," 3 Aug. 2018 In a sport with razor-thin margins and near-imperceptible vagaries, Krueger knows both sides of the calls and the breaks. Chelsea Janes, Houston Chronicle, "John Henry Krueger turns mettle into coveted medal," 17 Feb. 2018 Given the variety of viewers and vagaries of taste, having more choices led to less clarity. John Warner,, "Thumbs down to murky star ratings: Tell us whether a book is worth reading," 10 July 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'vagary.' 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 vagary

1579, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for vagary

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

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Statistics for vagary

Last Updated

4 Apr 2019

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Time Traveler for vagary

The first known use of vagary was in 1579

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More from Merriam-Webster on vagary

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with vagary

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for vagary

Spanish Central: Translation of vagary

Nglish: Translation of vagary for Spanish Speakers

Comments on vagary

What made you want to look up vagary? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


something valued as if it were money

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