What do a.m. and p.m. stand for?


[hwahy, wahy] /ʰwaɪ, waɪ/
for what? for what reason, cause, or purpose?:
Why did you behave so badly?
for what cause or reason:
I don't know why he is leaving.
for which; on account of which (usually after reason to introduce a relative clause):
the reason why he refused to go.
the reason for which:
That is why he returned.
noun, plural whys.
a question concerning the cause or reason for which something is done, achieved, etc.:
a child's unending hows and whys.
the cause or reason:
the whys and wherefores of a troublesome situation.
(used as an expression of surprise, hesitation, etc., or sometimes a mere expletive):
Why, it's all gone!
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.


[hwahyz, wahyz] /ʰwaɪz, waɪz/
contraction of why is:
Why's dinner so late?
Usage note Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for why
  • There are lots of explanations for why customer service is so bad.
  • why the pursuit of happiness naturally includes melancholy.
  • We pie lovers demand to know why so many family restaurants no longer have cases full of fresh homemade pies.
  • Scientists don't know why some moments seem to last longer than others.
  • Researchers are unraveling why some people are more sensitive to pain than others.
  • No doubt you now understand why these linguistic mysteries have disturbed my sleep for the past couple of years.
  • why the flu is worse in winter than summer has long baffled scientists.
  • There are good reasons why avocados fetch premium prices.
  • Nothing is more ordinary than a paper bag, which is why these hats are so extraordinary.
  • We asked readers to submit essays about why they travel.
British Dictionary definitions for why


  1. for what reason, purpose, or cause?: why are you here?
  2. (used in indirect questions): tell me why you're here
for or because of which: there is no reason why he shouldn't come
noun (pl) whys
(usually pl) the reason, purpose, or cause of something (esp in the phrase the whys and wherefores)
an introductory expression of surprise, disagreement, indignation, etc: why, don't be silly!
Word Origin
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
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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
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