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 If the easiest, safest way to make a decent return is to bet on the S&P 500, an investment that ETFs has made even easier and cheaper, why bother to invest in S&P 501? Elizabeth Macbride, Quartz, "How ETFs shrunk the stock market," 23 Nov. 2019 An obvious question raised by the find is why the two individuals were buried together. Jason Daley, Smithsonian, "Unusual Viking Grave Includes Nested Boats Buried 100 Years Apart," 23 Nov. 2019 Gritty and Phang, Philly’s newest mascots, exemplify why. Longreads, "The Top 5 Longreads of the Week," 23 Nov. 2019 Our Mike Sykes explains why NBA teams should happily allow Giannis Antetokounmpo to shoot 3-pointers. Andy Nesbitt, For The Win, "This is when Tom Brady and the Patriots are at their very best," 22 Nov. 2019 Whitehurst did a particularly good job explaining why the best companies pursuing technological transformations also are putting purpose at the center of their business. David Meyer, Fortune, "Purpose Leads to Performance," 22 Nov. 2019 So why is resistance to lockdown drills apparently on the rise? Jaclyn Schildkraut, The Conversation, "Do lockdown drills do any good?," 22 Nov. 2019 No one knows for certain how or why the fashion caught on. 1843, "My quest to understand the appeal of bird’s nest soup," 22 Nov. 2019 Which is why Malone pulled Craig aside on Wednesday afternoon and said to be ready to rock come game time. Sean Keeler, The Denver Post, "How James Harden got posterized by Torrey Craig, Nuggets," 21 Nov. 2019 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

Cite this Entry

“Why.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/why. Accessed 3 Jun. 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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