why

adverb
\ 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

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 Evolutionary biologists and anthropologists have spent decades trying to figure out why female humans outlive their fertile period when few other animals do. Elizabeth Landau, Smithsonian Magazine, "How Much Did Grandmothers Influence Human Evolution?," 4 Jan. 2021 We were never told why, and my uncle and his wife refused to share these funds with us without expecting to be paid back. Amy Dickinson, oregonlive, "Ask Amy: Complex, twisted estranged family relationship won’t be solved with a letter," 4 Jan. 2021 Police did not name the child or explain why the death was being considered a homicide. Tess Williams, Anchorage Daily News, "In a year where homicide rates increased nationwide, Anchorage saw significant decreases," 3 Jan. 2021 But those goals will remain aspirational without a Democratic majority in the Senate, which is why Nanje and a dozen other Family Friendly Action canvassers have been knocking on a hundred doors a day in the suburbs north of Atlanta. Sue Halpern, The New Yorker, "Can Boosting Child and Elder Care Help Democrats Win Control of the Senate?," 3 Jan. 2021 Alabama does not have the same sneaky reputation as Clemson, but after 639 yards and 49 points, why would the Buckeyes change that approach? Nathan Baird, cleveland, "Ohio State football’s unproven freshmen helped break the Clemson curse: Nathan Baird’s observations," 3 Jan. 2021 This is why Green’s return was supposed to be such a big help Friday. Connor Letourneau, SFChronicle.com, "Porous 3-point defense dooms Warriors in blowout loss to Trail Blazers," 2 Jan. 2021 And perhaps that’s why he's done such a horrendous job with the pandemic—and now the vaccine rollout. Molly Jong-fast, Vogue, "As We Enter 2021, Let's Give Thanks to the Unsung Essential Workers of 2020," 2 Jan. 2021 Nice win in last; no reason to see why this one can’t repeat here. Michael Beychok, NOLA.com, "Check out Chok's Choices for Sunday's Fair Grounds races," 2 Jan. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Again, here’s the why-it-matters paragraph for this section. New York Times, "“These Five Cuisines Are Easier on the Planet,” by Somini Sengupta," 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, "The future of American skiing may be inside a New Jersey mall," 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, "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 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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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

7 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Why.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/why. Accessed 17 Jan. 2021.

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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

Nglish: Translation of why for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of why for Arabic Speakers

Comments on why

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