where·​fore | \ˈhwer-ˌfȯr, ˈwer-\

Definition of wherefore 

(Entry 1 of 2)

1 : for what reason or purpose : why

2 : therefore



Definition of wherefore (Entry 2 of 2)

: an answer or statement giving an explanation : reason wants to know the whys and wherefores

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Synonyms for wherefore

Synonyms: Noun

account, authority, grounds, motive, reason, subject, why

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Wherefore and Shakespeare


When Shakespeare's Juliet asks, "O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?" she is not inquiring into her beloved's whereabouts. Rather she is asking why it is that Romeo must be Romeo, a member of the Montague family and, therefore, an enemy of Juliet's own family, the Capulets. Yet, wherefore does wherefore mean "why"? Starting in the early 13th century, a number of new words were formed by combining where with a preposition. In such words, where had the meaning of "what" or "which," giving the English language such adverbs as wherein ("in what"), whereon ("on what"), and wherefore ("for what"). English speakers have largely dropped the adverb wherefore in favor of why, but the noun wherefore, meaning "an answer or statement giving an explanation," continues to be used, particularly in the phrase "the whys and wherefores."

Examples of wherefore in a Sentence


it was getting late, and wherefore we decided to move on


demanded to know the whys and wherefores for the decision

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

In addition to gleaning the why and wherefore behind America’s foundational document, teenage listeners will meet up with the Declaration of Independence and a roster of seminal Supreme Court decisions. Louis Bayard, New York Times, "Audiobooks for Summer Trips With the Kids," 28 May 2018 The book casts its spell in revealing the whys and wherefores of the killings, as investigated by Burke’s onetime high school classmate, Rob Barrett, a Boston FBI agent whom Burke likes nothing better than to humiliate. Lloyd Sachs, chicagotribune.com, "Crime fiction to heat up your summer reading list," 21 May 2018 Harris will explain the whys and wherefores of rituals and the choreography of services. Courant Community, "Community News For The South Windsor Edition," 5 June 2017

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


13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1590, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for wherefore


Middle English wherfor, wherfore, from where, wher + for, fore for

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Time Traveler for wherefore

The first known use of wherefore was in the 13th century

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More Definitions for wherefore



English Language Learners Definition of wherefore

—used in the past to mean “why”


where·​fore | \ˈhwer-ˌfȯr, ˈwer-\

Kids Definition of wherefore

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Comments on wherefore

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


playful or foolish behavior

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