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 impatience why, here's what I was looking for

Keep scrolling for more

Synonyms for why

Synonyms: Noun

account, authority, grounds, motive, reason, subject, wherefore

Synonyms: Interjection

ah, aha, come on, fie, indeed, my word, no, pshaw, well, what

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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!
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Adverb

This is one reason why fewer than half of kakapo eggs hatch. The Economist, "How eugenics is saving a pudgy parrot," 31 Aug. 2019 Doctors do not know why some adults — more females than males — are developing allergies nor is there any treatment beyond avoidance. Kay Manning, chicagotribune.com, "Adult-onset food allergies are becoming more common, with women most at risk," 30 Aug. 2019 On Thursday, students were mixed on why attendance at their tailgate was so low. Jonah Dylan, courant.com, "Not much opening-game tailgating going on in UConn student section," 30 Aug. 2019 Taking all that into account, there’s no arguing with Showler’s assessment, but the story does raise the question of why Céline still has such relevance after all these years. Fortune, "Céline Dion Is Having a Moment: The Broadsheet," 30 Aug. 2019 Even though the overall global population is expected to keep growing for another 80 years, more and more of it will be made up of older people, which may be why Musk dismissed immigration as a possible solution. Echo Huang, Quartz, "Jack Ma and Elon Musk are pretty worried about a looming population collapse," 29 Aug. 2019 That’s why, about a decade ago, several institutions moved to remake their campus tours. Adam Harris, The Atlantic, "The Fine Line Campus Tour Guides Walk—Backwards," 29 Aug. 2019 Just like facial acne, there are a number of reasons why acne pops up on your scalp: stress, hormonal balances, certain foods, and abnormal immune responses can all be contributing factors. Janell Hickman, Allure, "Everything You Need to Know About Scalp Acne," 28 Aug. 2019 So why are our estimates of plant extinction so low? Commentary, Quartz Africa, "Plants are going extinct up to 350 times faster than the historical norm," 24 Aug. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

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 Once the why-does-this-take-so-long process of deboarding finishes, the NAU contingent wanders from A to B (gates) of Terminal 4. Joel Odom, OregonLive.com, "Portland State Vikings complete comeback, top Idaho State," 19 Jan. 2018 But the why of space in its economic context is just as important—maybe even more so. Ed Finn, Slate Magazine, "Space Is Not a Void," 14 Dec. 2017

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about why

Dictionary Entries near why

whup

whurl

whvs

why

why bother

whydah

whydunit

Statistics for why

Last Updated

17 Sep 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for why

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for why

why

adverb

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 impatience Why, how did you know that?

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on why

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with why

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for why

Spanish Central: Translation of why

Nglish: Translation of why for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of why for Arabic Speakers

Comments on why

What made you want to look up why? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

readily or continually undergoing change

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Musical Words Quiz

  • gramophone
  • Which word describes a musical performance marked by the absence of instrumental accompaniment?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

TAKE THE QUIZ
Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!