Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun A temporary encampment often in an unsheltered area.
  • intransitive verb To camp in a bivouac.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun 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.
  • To encamp in the open air without tents or covering, as soldiers on a march or in expectation of an engagement.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

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

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

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

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

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

Etymologies

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

[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).]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

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.

Examples

Comments

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

    July 24, 2007

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

    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

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

    July 25, 2007

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

    July 25, 2007

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

    July 25, 2007

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

    November 13, 2007

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

    November 13, 2007