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)", hwâ(r)'fô(r)", IPA(key): /ˈwɛə(ɹ)ˌfɔː(ɹ)/, /ˈʍɛə(ɹ)ˌfɔː(ɹ)/
    • (file)
  • (obsolete) enPR: hwûr'fôr", IPA(key): /ˈʍɜːɹˌfɔːɹ/[1]
  • Rhymes: -eə(ɹ)fɔː(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.
    • 2010 March 17, House of the United States, House Resolution 1031[2]:
      Wherefore, Judge G. Thomas Porteous, Jr., is guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors and should be removed from office.

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).[2]

See also Edit

Conjunction Edit


  1. (archaic) Because of which.
    • 1611, The Holy Bible, [] (King James Version), London: [] Robert Barker, [], →OCLC, 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[3], All-Story Cavalier Weekly:
      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 (date written), William Shakespeare, “The Comedie of Errors”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies [] (First Folio), London: [] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, →OCLC, [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. ^ Jespersen, Otto (1909) A Modern English Grammar on Historical Principles (Sammlung germanischer Elementar- und Handbücher; 9)‎[1], volume I: Sounds and Spellings, London: George Allen & Unwin, published 1961, § 4.36, page 124.
  2. ^ Gary Martin (1997–), “O Romeo, Romeo! wherefore art thou Romeo?”, in The Phrase Finder, retrieved 26 February 2017.