\ ˈ(h)wī How to pronounce why (audio) \

Definition of why

 (Entry 1 of 4)

: for what cause, reason, or purpose why did you do it?

Definition of why (Entry 2 of 4)

1 : the cause, reason, or purpose for which know why you did it that is why you did it
2 : for which : on account of which know the reason why you did it


plural whys

Definition of why (Entry 3 of 4)

1 : reason, cause wants to know the whys and wherefores
2 : a baffling problem : enigma

Definition of why (Entry 4 of 4)

used to express mild surprise, hesitation, approval, disapproval, or impatience why, here's what I was looking for

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Synonyms for why

Synonyms: Noun

Synonyms: Interjection

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Examples of why in a Sentence

Adverb Why did you quit your job? Why is the sky blue? Why didn't you call me? Why didn't I think of that? “I can't go out tonight.” “Why not?” Conjunction I know why he did it. It's easy to see why she fell in love with him. He's a very good player. That's why he made the team. The reason why they succeeded is obvious. They worked really hard. Give me one good reason why I should stay. Noun asked the whys behind the surprising decision how one decides that a certain he or she is “the one” is one of the great whys of life Interjection why, what a strange thing to say!
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adverb Clarke’s 10 points were a main reason why early on the juniors were still in the game. J.l. Kirven, The Indianapolis Star, 11 June 2021 Being outscored by a total of 33 points in the second half in falling behind 2-0 in this best-of-7-conference semifinals series can bring that kind of reaction out of any coach, but the Phoenix Suns have plenty to do with why Malone is so heated. Duane Rankin, The Arizona Republic, 11 June 2021 Although Apple doesn’t go into detail, there’s a reason why this feature is exclusive to users in Brazil and India — at least for now. Yoni Heisler, BGR, 10 June 2021 When offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson sees a player with great upside, Ruckert becomes the reference point for why Columbus is the best fit. Stephen Means, cleveland, 10 June 2021 Keystone was never a particularly necessary or even financially feasible project with regard to the nation’s immediate energy needs, which is why both Obama and now Biden were happy to oppose it. Nick Martin, The New Republic, 10 June 2021 That’s why, the launch of her skincare brand, Keys Soulcare, was so different from the rest. Blake Newby, Essence, 10 June 2021 Fauci also talks about the latest in HIV/AIDS research and why the HIV infection rate in the Black community is of particular concern to him. Lz Granderson, ABC News, 10 June 2021 And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why America is the greatest country on earth!!! Mike Bianchi, orlandosentinel.com, 9 June 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun McMahon, who when the pandemic isn’t destroying the world can often be found behind the bar at BJs, has an elegant, perfect, so-simple-why-didn't-we-think-of-it-before solution: the humble crockpot. John Stanton | Gambit Editor, NOLA.com, 8 Feb. 2021 Again, here’s the why-it-matters paragraph for this section. New York Times, 7 Feb. 2020 To attract a fresh, diverse crop of patrons, snow sports need to blow up the existing model, by being inexpensive, accessible, easy and - why, the heck not? - available more months of the year. Karen Heller, Anchorage Daily News, 8 Jan. 2020 Not everyone may want to abandon teaching manners altogether, but these insights do suggest rethinking our approach, focusing as much on the why of courtesy as the how. BostonGlobe.com, 23 Oct. 2019 Worst of all, the cult of lethality attempts to divorce the how of killing from the why, an insane proposition given that military force is deployed in the service of political outcomes. Jared Keller, The New Republic, 9 Sep. 2019 Questioning the who-what-where-why-how is paramount. The Conversation, 5 July 2019 And the why is that it’s, unfortunately, human nature that has presented itself in so many, many ways. Howard Reich, chicagotribune.com, 13 July 2018 Businesses and individuals are expected to operate within this principle - why shouldn’t government as well? Jason Lewis, BostonGlobe.com, 5 July 2018 Recent Examples on the Web: Interjection And why, oh why, can’t this administration get anything, even a pair of shoes, right? Lynn Yaeger, Vogue, 29 Aug. 2017 And why, oh why, did my friend have to play back-alley obstetrician? Shannon Boodram, Cosmopolitan, 3 Aug. 2017 Then why, oh why, make the misguided choice of inviting a political propagandist whose rantings are regularly available on radio, YouTube and any dark den of far-right Internet conspiracy? Lorraine Ali, latimes.com, 12 June 2017 Why, oh why, do the Rangers keep throwing away almost certain victories in the final minutes of playoff games? Filip Bondy, New York Times, 30 Apr. 2017

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


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined above


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1519, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for why


Middle English, from Old English hwȳ, instrumental case of hwæt what — more at what entry 1

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Time Traveler for why

Time Traveler

The first known use of why was before the 12th century

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Statistics for why

Last Updated

12 Jun 2021

Cite this Entry

“Why.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/why. Accessed 12 Jun. 2021.

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More Definitions for why



English Language Learners Definition of why

 (Entry 1 of 3)

: for what reason or purpose
used to offer a suggestion or to say that a course of action is not necessary
used to express irritation or annoyance

English Language Learners Definition of why (Entry 2 of 3)

: the cause, reason, or purpose for which
: for which

English Language Learners Definition of why (Entry 3 of 3)

somewhat old-fashioned used at the beginning of a statement especially to express surprise


\ ˈhwī How to pronounce why (audio) , ˈwī \

Kids Definition of why

 (Entry 1 of 3)

: for what cause or reason Why did you do it?

Kids Definition of why (Entry 2 of 3)

1 : the cause or reason for which We know why you did it.
2 : for which Here's the reason why I did it.

Kids Definition of why (Entry 3 of 3)

used to express surprise, uncertainty, approval, disapproval, or impatience Why, how did you know that?

More from Merriam-Webster on why

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for why

Nglish: Translation of why for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of why for Arabic Speakers


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