why

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

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

why

noun
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 impatiencewhy, 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 Even hedge funds face ferocious competition for investors’ funds, which is why so many are throwing in the towel. The Economist, "Billionaires are only rarely policy failures," 9 Nov. 2019 So, with all these rules and regulations, added fuel costs and the rest of it, why have assigned vehicles? Dan Sweeney, sun-sentinel.com, "Why do cops get to take their patrol cars home, and how is it regulated? | You asked, we answer," 8 Nov. 2019 But there is a reason why many societies represent Lady Justice as wearing a blindfold: the judiciary must put facts and expertise in the balance and be able to abstract away from base prejudices. Monika Schmid, Quartz at Work, "Accent prejudice is costing people the jobs they deserve," 7 Nov. 2019 Carbino says this is why people continue to use them, and mentions her own personal success. Diego Senior, CBS News, "Dating apps turn finding love into a video game — and lots of people lose," 7 Nov. 2019 So the Lions have done a few things right in the first half of the season, that’s why, faint or not, their playoff hopes are still alive. Dave Birkett, Detroit Free Press, "Detroit Lions' 2019 season (so far) has been defined by these 5 plays," 7 Nov. 2019 That's why the researchers believe this metal has a future in shipbuilding. Courtney Linder, Popular Mechanics, "Unsinkable Metal Could Lead to Unsinkable Ships. Now Where Have We Heard That Before?," 7 Nov. 2019 In this op-ed, Teen Vogue's identity editor Brittney McNamara explains why T.I.'s daughter being subjected to hymen checks is a violation of her privacy, and an enforcement of outdated patriarchal standards that exist to control women. Brittney Mcnamara, Teen Vogue, "T.I. Taking His Daughter for Hymen Tests Is a Violation of Her Privacy," 6 Nov. 2019 The Louis Vuitton Neverfulls and Gucci Marmonts will forever be popular—and for a reason!—but why not carry something new, fresh, and a little but more under the radar? Glamour, "The Best Handbag Brands to Know (and Shop) in 2019," 6 Nov. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun 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, "Parents give and give, and their kids just get ruder and more entitled.”," 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, "James Mattis’s Bizarre Cult of “Lethality”," 9 Sep. 2019 Questioning the who-what-where-why-how is paramount. The Conversation, "Confused about what to eat? Science can help," 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, "Precious possessions: The genocide survivors who kept them tell their stories," 13 July 2018 Businesses and individuals are expected to operate within this principle - why shouldn’t government as well? Jason Lewis, BostonGlobe.com, "Should the Legislature revive the push for a millionaires tax?," 5 July 2018 Makes perfect sense in a why-has-no-one-ever-thought-of-that-before way, no? Lauren Valenti, Marie Claire, "Meet Your Next K-Beauty Obsession: Cushion Eyeliner," 2 Oct. 2015 For many in Westbury, not knowing the how or the why of this homicide case haunts them. CBS News, "Police probe killing of Binghamton University nursing student," 12 Mar. 2018 The following story, about the how and the why, was pieced together using Austin’s own words. Keith Bierygolick, Cincinnati.com, "A school shooter, in his own words: 'I wasn't wanted by anyone'," 23 Feb. 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, "Melania Trump’s Hurricane Stilettos, and the White House’s Continual Failure to Understand Optics," 29 Aug. 2017 And why, oh why, did my friend have to play back-alley obstetrician? Shannon Boodram, Cosmopolitan, "Read the Fictional Orgasm Essay Jane Wrote on The Bold Type," 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, "The uproar over the Megyn Kelly interview with Alex Jones shows her, and NBC's, lack of news judgment," 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, "Trying to Prevent a Third Loss, Rangers Embrace Second-Guessing," 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

Adverb

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined above

Conjunction

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

Noun

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Interjection

1519, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for why

Adverb

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

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Statistics for why

Last Updated

11 Nov 2019

Time Traveler for why

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

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More Definitions for why

why

adverb
How to pronounce why (audio)

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

why

adverb
\ 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 impatienceWhy, how did you know that?

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More from Merriam-Webster on why

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for why

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with why

Spanish Central: Translation of why

Nglish: Translation of why for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of why for Arabic Speakers

Comments on why

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meddlesome, informal, or unofficial

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