Origin of why

before 900; Middle English; Old English hwī, hwȳ, instrumental case of hwæt what; cognate with Old Norse hvī

Usage note

See reason.

Definition for why (2 of 2)


[ hwahyz, wahyz ]
/ ʰwaɪz, waɪz /

contraction of why is: Why's dinner so late?

Usage note

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

British Dictionary definitions for why

Word Origin for why

Old English hwī; related to Old Norse hvī, Gothic hveileiks what kind of, Latin quī
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for why


Old English hwi, instrumental case (showing for what purpose or by what means) of hwæt (see what), from Proto-Germanic *khwi (cf. Old Saxon hwi, Old Norse hvi), from PIE *qwei, locative of *qwo- "who" (cf. Greek pei "where"). As an interjection of surprise or to call attention to a statement, recorded from 1510s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper