Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A temporary encampment often in an unsheltered area.
  • intransitive v. To camp in a bivouac.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. An encampment for the night, usually without tents or covering.
  • n. Any temporary encampment.
  • n. The watch of a whole army by night, when in danger of surprise or attack.
  • v. To set up camp.
  • v. To watch at night or be on guard, as a whole army.
  • v. To encamp for the night without tents or covering.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. The watch of a whole army by night, when in danger of surprise or attack.
  • n. An encampment for the night without tents or covering.
  • intransitive v. To watch at night or be on guard, as a whole army.
  • intransitive v. To encamp for the night without tents or covering.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To encamp in the open air without tents or covering, as soldiers on a march or in expectation of an engagement.
  • n. An encampment of soldiers in the open air without tents, each soldier remaining dressed and with his weapons by him; hence, figuratively, a position or situation of readiness for emergencies, or a situation demanding extreme watchfulness.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. a site where people on holiday can pitch a tent
  • n. temporary living quarters specially built by the army for soldiers
  • v. live in or as if in a tent

Etymologies

French, from German dialectal beiwacht, supplementary night watch : bei-, beside (from Middle High German bi-, from Old High German; see ambhi in Indo-European roots) + Wacht, watch, vigil (from Middle High German wahte, from Old High German wahta; see weg- in Indo-European roots).
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
Borrowing from French bivouac, formerly biouac, bivac, from Alemannic German beiwacht, biwacht ("a patrol of citizens added to in time of alarm or commotion to the regular town watch"), from bi, bei ("by") + *wacht ("watch, guard"), from Middle High German wachte, from Old High German *wahta ("guard, watch"), from Proto-Germanic *wahtwō (“guard, watch”), from Proto-Indo-European *weǵ- (“to be awake, be fresh, be cheerful”). Compare German Beiwache ("a keeping watch"), German Wacht ("guard"). More at by, watch, wait. (Wiktionary)

Examples

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Comments

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  • It's probably closest to 2-and-a-half syllables.

    November 13, 2007

  • Another baffled three-syllabler here. Biv-wack?! Wot?!

    November 13, 2007

  • Interesting--didn't know until now that there was a three-syllable pronunciation for this.

    July 25, 2007

  • dictionary lists two pronunciations: biv-oo-ak and biv-wak.

    July 25, 2007

  • The original Swiss word, bīwacht, is even more hilarious.

    July 25, 2007

  • You mean three syllables like: "I don't biv uh wack!" (that was a joke, by the way--could not resist a little word play)

    July 25, 2007

  • I pronounce this with 3 syllables, so none of them sound like whack.

    July 25, 2007

  • I find this word downright comical. Probably because the second syllable sounds like whack.

    July 24, 2007