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wherewithal

Printable Version Pronunciation: hwer-with-awl Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: The (financial) means to do something.

Notes: Wherewithal is an odd little word, a lexical orphan with no derivational family. Withal "in addition, among other things" seems to be a relative but is only coincidentally composed of the same words: "Tryon Makepeace is withal an excellent negotiator," meaning that among his other talents, he negotiates well.

In Play: Withal is a bit outdated but wherewithal is still very much alive around the English-speaking world; it most frequently refers to finances: "Gooden Small did not have the wherewithal to buy the yacht he wanted, so he settled for a rather modest speedboat." This word may, however, be used to refer to strengths outside the realm of finance: "I don't think Lil Abner has the emotional wherewithal to survive another divorce."

Word History: English has a dying set of compound adverbs made up of where + a preposition in which where means "which". For example, the house wherein I reside means "the house in which I reside." The tools wherewith to complete the job means "the tools with which to complete the job". This makes sense with the original meaning of wherewithal: "all with which (one needs to ...)" It is odd for an adverb to slip into the grammatical garb of a noun, but stranger things have happened in English. (I am sure we are all grateful that Jeremy Busch has the lexical wherewithal to continue sending us excellent Good Words like today's.)

Dr. Goodword, alphaDictionary.com

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