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  • enPR: wâ(r)'fô(r)", IPA(key): /ˈweə(ɹ)ˌfɔː(ɹ)/
  • enPR: hwâ(r)'fô(r)", IPA(key): /ˈʍeə(ɹ)ˌfɔː(ɹ)/


From Middle English wherfor, wherfore, hwarfore, equivalent to where(=what) +‎ for. Compare Dutch waarvoor(what for, wherefore), German wofür(for what, what for, why), Danish and Norwegian hvorfor(wherefore, why), Swedish varför(wherefore, why). More at where, for.


wherefore (not comparable)

  1. (conjunctive, archaic) Why, for what reason, because of what.
    • 1920, Herman Cyril McNeile, Bulldog Drummond Chapter 1
      "Good morning, Mrs. Denny," he said. "Wherefore this worried look on your face? Has that reprobate James been misbehaving himself?"
    • "Job", Holy Bible King James Version, 21:7:
      Wherefore do the wicked live, become old, yea, are mighty in power?
    • 1595, William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet
      Romeo, O Romeo. Wherefore art thou, Romeo?
  2. (conjunctive, archaic or formal) Therefore.

Usage notes[edit]

  • A common misconception is that wherefore means where; it has even been used in that sense in cartoon depictions of Romeo and Juliet(Can we clean up(+) this sense?), often played for comedic effect. In Romeo and Juliet, the meaning of “Wherefore art thou Romeo?” (Act 2, scene 2, line 33) is not “Where are you, Romeo?” but “Why are you Romeo?” (i.e. “Why did you have to be a Montague?”).[1]

See also[edit]



  1. (archaic) Because of which.
    • Wherefore thus saith the Holy One of Israel, Because ye despise this word, and trust in oppression and perverseness, and stay thereon:
      Therefore this iniquity shall be to you as a breach ready to fall, swelling out in a high wall, whose breaking cometh suddenly at an instant.
      (Isaiah 30:12-13)
    • 1914, Edgar Rice Burroughs, The Mucker[1], HTML edition, The Gutenberg Project, published 2009:
      Wherefore it was that by the time the authorities awoke to the fact that something had happened Billy Byrne was fifty miles west of Joliet, bowling along aboard a fast Santa Fe freight.



wherefore (plural wherefores)

  1. An intent or purpose; a why.
    • 1996, Richard Bausch, Good evening Mr. & Mrs. America, and all the ships at sea, page 72:
      They want their money without reference to the hows and wherefores.
    • 1595, William Shakespeare, A Comedy of Errors
      Every why hath a wherefore.

Derived terms[edit]


  1. ^ O Romeo, Romeo! wherefore art thou Romeo?”, in Gary Martin, The Phrase Finder, 1997–.