• wherewithal •
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In Play: Withal is a bit outdated but wherewithal is still very much alive around the English-speaking world; it most frequently refers to finances: "Gooden Small did not have the wherewithal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.)
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