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.
- 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
wherefore (not comparable)
- (conjunctive, interrogative, archaic) Why, for what reason, because of what.
- c. 1591–1595, [William Shakespeare], […] Romeo and Juliet. […] (First Quarto), London: Printed by Iohn Danter, published 1597, OCLC 503903918, [Act II, scene ii]:
- Ah, Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo? / Denie thy Father, and refuſe thy name, / Or if thou wilt not be but ſworne my loue, / And il'e no longer be a Capulet.
- 1610–1611, William Shakespeare, “The Tempest”, 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 III, scene i], page 11, column 2:
- VVherefore weepe you?
- 1828 May 15, [Walter Scott], chapter II, in Chronicles of the Canongate. Second Series. [...] In Three Volumes (The Fair Maid of Perth), volume III, Edinburgh: Printed [by Ballantyne and Co.] for Cadell and Co.; London: Simpkin and Marshall, OCLC 17487293, page 27:
- And if he preached other than the right doctrine, wherefore did his superiors in the Carthusian convent permit it? If the shepherds turn a wolf in sheep's clothing into the flock, they should not blame the sheep for being worried.
- 1920, Herman Cyril McNeile, chapter 1, in Bulldog Drummond:
- "Good morning, Mrs. Denny," he said. "Wherefore this worried look on your face? Has that reprobate James been misbehaving himself?"
- (conjunctive, indicative, archaic or formal) Therefore.
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).
- (archaic) Because of which.
- 1611, The Holy Bible, […] (King James Version), imprinted at London: By 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, 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)
- 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.
- (about): hereabout, thereabout, whereabout
- (abouts): hereabouts, thereabouts, whereabouts
- (after): hereafter, thereafter, whereafter
- (again): thereagain
- (against): thereagainst, whereagainst
- (among): thereamong, whereamong
- (around): therearound
- (as): thereas, whereas
- (at): hereat, thereat, whereat
- (before): herebefore, therebefore
- (beside): therebeside
- (by): hereby, thereby, whereby
- (fore): herefore, therefore, wherefore
- (from): herefrom, therefrom, wherefrom
- (in): herein, therein, wherein
- (in after): hereinafter, thereinafter, whereinafter
- (in before): hereinbefore, thereinbefore, whereinbefore
- (into): hereinto, thereinto, whereinto
- (of): hereof, thereof, whereof
- (on): hereon, thereon, whereon
- (to): hereto, thereto, whereto
- (tofore): heretofore, theretofore, wheretofore
- (under): hereunder, thereunder, whereunder
- (unto): hereunto, thereunto, whereunto
- (upon): hereupon, thereupon, whereupon
- (with): herewith, therewith, wherewith
- (withal): herewithal, therewithal, wherewithal