Definition of why in English:

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Pronunciation: /wʌɪ/

interrogative adverb

1For what reason or purpose: why did he do it?
More example sentences
  • Why can't we do this with politicians?
  • And, perhaps more pertinently, why do we insist on knowing about it in the first place?
  • If they were really such good friends, why does the caller keep getting the phone number wrong?
1.1 [with negative] Used to make or agree to a suggestion: why don’t I give you a lift?
More example sentences
  • So if you are over 55 and would like to be a little bit more fit or just meet new friends why not come along.
  • Why don't they just cut out the decoy?
  • If you are a gardener and want to extend your group of friends, why not come to the next meeting?

relative adverb

1(With reference to a reason) on account of which; for which: the reason why flu jabs need repeating every year is that the virus changes
More example sentences
  • I advised my team leaders about this problem, and the reason why it had occurred.
  • It's obvious that the two of you are the reason why the kids have such a great time at the ranch.
  • That is part of the reason why we are going in for a completely fresh start.
1.1The reason for which: each has faced similar hardships, and perhaps that is why they are friends
More example sentences
  • It perhaps explains why today I don't like to go to places that require me to use a map.
  • A friend asked him why he went so far, and told him that there were plenty of others just as good nearer his home.
  • Perhaps it's why the West Coast has more helicopters than anywhere else in the country.


1Expressing surprise or indignation: why, that’s absurd!
More example sentences
  • 'Why, that's absurd,' my father said.
  • People said, "That's outrageous, why, that's silly. Common sense says that can't possibly be the truth.
2Used to add emphasis to a response: ‘You think so?’ ‘Why, yes.’
More example sentences
  • Why yes, how did you know?
  • Why yes, how did you know?

noun (plural whys)

A reason or explanation: the whys and wherefores of these procedures need to be explained to students
More example sentences
  • Though Bremer, apparently, is reluctantly beginning to agree, Calamai's explanation of the whys and wherefores is so direct, spare, and compelling, it's worth repeating.
  • I love to read about the whys and what-fors behind what I am doing - explanation with instruction.
  • At community colleges across the nation, faculty members are still trying to determine the hows and whys of valuing scholarship at their institutions.


why so?

For what reason or purpose? ‘I need to borrow your car.’ ‘Why so?’
More example sentences
  • We get bits and pieces of meaning, some glimpses of hope and we ponder again and again, why so?


Old English hwī, hwȳ 'by what cause', instrumental case of hwæt 'what', of Germanic origin.

Words that rhyme with why

ally, Altai, apply, assai, awry, ay, aye, Baha'i, belie, bi, Bligh, buy, by, bye, bye-bye, chi, Chiangmai, Ciskei, comply, cry, Cy, Dai, defy, deny, Di, die, do-or-die, dry, Dubai, dye, espy, eye, fie, fly, forbye, fry, Frye, goodbye (US goodby), guy, hereby, hi, hie, high, I, imply, I-spy, July, kai, lie, lye, Mackay, misapply, my, nearby, nigh, Nye, outfly, passer-by, phi, pi, pie, ply, pry, psi, Qinghai, rai, rely, rocaille, rye, scry, serai, shanghai, shy, sigh, sky, Skye, sky-high, sly, spin-dry, spry, spy, sty, Sukhotai, supply, Tai, Thai, thereby, thigh, thy, tie, Transkei, try, tumble-dry, underlie, Versailles, Vi, vie, whereby, wry, Wye, xi, Xingtai, Yantai

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