wherefore

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English[edit]

Alternative forms[edit]

Etymology[edit]

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.

Pronunciation[edit]

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

Adverb[edit]

wherefore (not comparable)

  1. (conjunctive, interrogative, archaic) Why, for what reason, because of what.
  2. (conjunctive, indicative, archaic or formal) Therefore.

Usage notes[edit]

A common misconception is that wherefore means where; it is occasionally so used in retellings of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet—often for comedic effect. In Romeo and Juliet, the meaning of “Wherefore art thou Romeo?” (Act II, scene ii, line 33) is not “Where are you, Romeo?” but “Why are you Romeo?” (“Why do you have to be a Montague?”, that is, a member of the family which was feuding with Juliet’s family).[1]

See also[edit]

Conjunction[edit]

wherefore

  1. (archaic) Because of which.
    • 1611, The Holy Bible, [] (King James Version), London: [] Robert Barker, [], OCLC 964384981, Isaiah 30:12–13, column 1:
      Wherefore, thus ſaith the holy one of Iſrael, Becauſe ye deſpise this word, and truſt in oppreſſion and peruerſeneſſe, and ſtay thereon: Therefore this iniquitie ſhalbe to you as a breach ready to fall, ſwelling out in a high wall, whoſe breaking commeth ſuddenly at an inſtant.
    • 1914, Edgar Rice Burroughs, The Mucker[1], 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.

Translations[edit]

Noun[edit]

wherefore (plural wherefores)

  1. An intent or purpose; a why.
    • c. 1594, William Shakespeare, “The Comedie of Errors”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies: Published According to the True Originall Copies (First Folio), London: Printed by Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, OCLC 606515358, [Act II, scene ii], page 88, column 2:
      Ant[ipholus of Syracuse]. Shall I tell you why? / S. Dro. [Dromio of Syracuse] I, ſir, and wherefore; for they ſay, euery why hath a wherefore.
    • 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.

Derived terms[edit]

See also[edit]

Here-, there-, and where- words

References[edit]

  1. ^ O Romeo, Romeo! wherefore art thou Romeo?” in Gary Martin, The Phrase Finder, 1997–, retrieved 26 February 2017.