Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day


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Build your vocabulary with Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day! Each day a Merriam-Webster editor offers insight into a fascinating new word -- explaining its meaning, current use, and little-known details about its origin.



April 9th, 2016

Episode 499 of 689 episodes

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 9, 2016 is: wherefore \WAIR-for\ adverb 1 : for what reason or purpose : why 2 : therefore Examples: "What had already fallen from her, however, had not only piqued his curiosity, but seriously alarmed him, wherefore he urged her to tell him the worst at once." — Charles Dickens, The Old Curiosity Shop, 1841 "There's a frivolity to the lopsidedness with which Hyundai designed the 2012 Veloster.... The left brain just doesn't know what to make of it, and frankly, we can sympathize: 'Wherefore the asymmetry?' it asks, brow furrowed in frustration." — Natalie Neff, AutoWeek, 31 Oct. 2011 Did you know? When Shakespeare's Juliet asks, "O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?" she is not inquiring into her beloved's whereabouts. Rather she is asking why it is that Romeo must be Romeo, a member of the Montague family and, therefore, an enemy of Juliet's own family, the Capulets. Yet, wherefore does wherefore mean "why"? Starting in the early 13th century, a number of new words were formed by combining where with a preposition. In such words, where had the meaning of "what" or "which," giving the English language such adverbs as wherein ("in what"), whereon ("on what"), and wherefore ("for what"). English speakers have largely dropped the adverb wherefore in favor of why, but the noun wherefore, meaning "an answer or statement giving an explanation," continues to be used, particularly in the phrase "the whys and wherefores."

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