wherefore

adverb
where·fore | \ ˈhwer-ˌfȯr , ˈwer- \

Definition of wherefore 

(Entry 1 of 2)

1 : for what reason or purpose : why

2 : therefore

wherefore

noun

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

Adverb

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

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: 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

Adverb

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Noun

1590, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for wherefore

Adverb

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

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Phrases Related to wherefore

the whys and (the) wherefores

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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

wherefore

adverb

English Language Learners Definition of wherefore

—used in the past to mean “why”

wherefore

adverb
where·fore | \ ˈhwer-ˌfȯr , ˈwer- \

Kids Definition of wherefore

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