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

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.

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

Example Sentences

the vagaries of a rather eccentric, elderly lady
Recent Examples on the Web Desplat is suitably alluring as Karla, but the character’s interactions with Lin generally fail to transcend a certain perfume-ad vagary. Daniel D'addario, Variety, 11 Oct. 2022 At times, its operators seemed confounded by the vagaries of Toronto politics. Aarian Marshall, Wired, 7 May 2020 Ford has a gift for nimble interior monologues and a superb ear for the varieties and vagaries of human speech. Rand Richards Cooper, New York Times, 12 May 2020 New York has long prided itself on being a sort of cultural and political city-state, able to hold its own against any vagaries emanating from the White House. David Remnick, The New Yorker, 12 Apr. 2020 Making the situation worse are the increasing vagaries of climate change. S. Gopikrishna Warrier, Quartz India, 20 Jan. 2020 Was this a nod to the vagaries of supply and demand? Shawn Windsor, Detroit Free Press, 16 Apr. 2020 The vagaries of ancestry are especially acute for many African Americans, largely because the slave trade severed familial links both within American life and to African origins. Los Angeles Times, 7 Apr. 2020 Ordinarily, the absence of genetic diversity makes a population exceedingly vulnerable to the vagaries of its environment. Quanta Magazine, 23 Mar. 2020 See More

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.

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 8 Dec. 2022.

Kids Definition


plural vagaries
: an odd or unpredictable idea or happening

More from Merriam-Webster on vagary

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