1 of 2


where·​fore ˈ(h)wer-ˌfȯr How to pronounce wherefore (audio)
: for what reason or purpose : why


2 of 2


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

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Wherefore and Shakespeare

In early English, a number of new words were formed by combining where with a preposition. In such words, where had the meaning of "what" or "which"—hence, wherein ("in what"), whereon ("on what"), and wherefore ("for what"). Although wherefore as an adverb is rarely used today, the noun form, meaning "an answer or statement giving an explanation," survives in the phrase "the whys and wherefores."

Examples of wherefore in a Sentence

Adverb it was getting late, and wherefore we decided to move on Noun demanded to know the whys and wherefores for the decision
Recent Examples on the Web
But none of those 265 pages of wherefores and whereases on the sports authority website are legally binding. Mike Hendricks, Kansas City Star, 30 Mar. 2024 Eschewing cheap shots, McBride favors a careful, winding excavation – reaching into history for the whys and wherefores of his novels’ crowded casts, while delivering whopper stories with electric finales. Erin Douglass, The Christian Science Monitor, 12 Oct. 2023 Soccer, though, did not waste time wondering about the whys and wherefores. Ahmed Al Omran, New York Times, 13 July 2023 The political whys and wherefores are important — and might be left to another piece. Jay Nordlinger, National Review, 14 May 2023 As in most of Tim and Eric’s sketch humor, there are few whys and wherefores. Austin Considine, New York Times, 26 Mar. 2020 Julian Fellowes, a master writer who understands so well all the peculiarities of time and place, manners and historical significance of the whys and wherefores of his fictional inhabitants, is to be applauded. Los Angeles Times, 11 Oct. 2019 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, 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, 21 May 2018

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

Word History



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

First Known Use


13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1590, in the meaning defined above

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


Dictionary Entries Near wherefore

Cite this Entry

“Wherefore.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/wherefore. Accessed 25 Jul. 2024.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 adverb
where·​fore ˈhwe(ə)r-ˌfō(ə)r How to pronounce wherefore (audio)
: for what reason or purpose : why


2 of 2 noun
: an answer or statement giving an explanation : reason
the whys and wherefores

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