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 Jon Morosi of MLB Network and FOX Sports sees the Cincinnati Reds as a playoff team this season, and explains why in a video published via Twitter. Dave Clark, The Enquirer, "Jon Morosi: Cincinnati Reds will be MLB playoff team in 2020," 3 July 2020 Virginia Tech researchers used motion-capture cameras to find out why. Jamie L. Lareau, USA TODAY, "She hasn't seen her Canadian boyfriend in months. They want the same border rights as married couples.," 3 July 2020 Many, however, were curious as to why the couple had chosen to pose on a rock during high tide. Fox News, "California bride, groom rescued after giant wave sweeps them into ocean during wedding photos," 3 July 2020 Scientists are still trying to parse why the two groups face such different prognoses. Juliet Isselbacher, STAT, "Does asthma increase Covid-19 risk? Emerging research suggests a complicated connection," 2 July 2020 That requirement is often disregarded, though, and one reason why state legislators have proposed making use of consumer fireworks legal. Robert Higgs, cleveland, "High use of backyard fireworks predicted, prompting fears of heightened fireworks-related injuries," 2 July 2020 The school system posted a letter to its website on June 24 explaining why Rebel will remain even after the system faced a contentious 2015-2016 that included angry meetings, community uproar and at least one lawsuit. Anna Beahm | Abeahm@al.com, al, "Vestavia Hills explains again why it’s keeping ‘Rebel’," 2 July 2020 That’s why Diyoza and Hope cling to each other so tightly. Dalene Rovenstine, EW.com, "The 100 recap: Emori fights for unity in Sanctum," 2 July 2020 That’s why Anduril Industries, a three-year-old defense technology company that develops drones and surveillance towers, is taking heat. Lucinda Shen, Fortune, "Controversial surveillance startup Anduril gets a $1.9 billion valuation," 2 July 2020 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

5 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Why.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/why. Accessed 9 Jul. 2020.

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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

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