1

what

play
pronoun \ˈhwät, ˈhwət, ˈwät, ˈwət\

Definition of what

  1. 1a (1) —used as an interrogative expressing inquiry about the identity, nature, or value of an object or matter what is this what is wealth without friends what does he earn what hath God wrought (2) —often used to ask for repetition of an utterance or part of an utterance not properly heard or understood you said whatb (1) archaic :  who 1 —used as an interrogative expressing inquiry about the identity of a person (2) —used as an interrogative expressing inquiry about the character, nature, occupation, position, or role of a person what do you think I am, a fool what is she, that all our swains commend her — William Shakespearec —used as an exclamation expressing surprise or excitement and frequently introducing a question what, no breakfastd —used in expressions directing attention to a statement that the speaker is about to make you know whate (1) —used at the end of a question to express inquiry about additional possibilities is it raining, or snowing, or what (2) —used with or at the end of a question usually in expectation of agreement is this exciting, or whatf chiefly British —used at the end of an utterance as a form of tag question a clever play, what

  2. 2 chiefly dialectal :  4that 1, which 3, who 3

  3. 3a :  that which :  the one or ones that no income but what he gets from his writings —sometimes used in reference to a clause or phrase that is yet to come or is not yet complete gave also, what is more valuable, understandingb :  the thing or things that what you need is a vacation what angered us was the tone of the article

  4. 4a :  whatever 1a say what you willb obsolete :  whoever

what for

  1. 1 :  for what purpose or reason :  why —usually used with the other words of a question between what and for what did you do that for except when used alone

  2. 2 :  harsh treatment especially by blows or by a sharp reprimand gave him what for in violent Spanish — New Yorker

what have you

  1. :  whatnot novels, plays, short stories, travelogues, and what have you — Haldeen Braddy

what if

  1. 1 :  what will or would be the result if

  2. 2 :  what does it matter if so what if he doesn't like it

what of

  1. 1 :  what is the situation with respect to

  2. 2 :  what importance can be assigned to

what's more

  1. :  in addition :  furthermore

what's what

  1. :  the true state of things knows what's what when it comes to fashion

what though

  1. :  what does it matter if what though the rose have prickles, yet 'tis plucked — William Shakespeare

Origin and Etymology of what

Middle English, from Old English hwæt, neuter of hwā who — more at who


First Known Use: before 12th century


2

what

adverb

Definition of what

  1. 1 obsolete :  why

  2. 2 :  in what respect :  how what does he care

  3. 3 —used to introduce prepositional phrases in parallel construction or a prepositional phrase that expresses cause and usually has more than one object ; used principally before phrases beginning with with what with unemployment increasing what with the war, what with the sweat, what with the gallows, and what with poverty, I am custom-shrunk — William Shakespeare

Before 12th Century

First Known Use of what

before 12th century


3

what

adjective

Definition of what

  1. 1a —used as an interrogative expressing inquiry about the identity, nature, or value of a person, object, or matter what minerals do we exportb :  how remarkable or striking for good or bad qualities —used especially in exclamatory utterances and dependent clauses what mountains remember what fun we had what a suggestion what a charming girl

  2. 2a (1) :  whatever 1a (2) :  any ornament of what description soeverb :  the … that :  as much or as many … as rescued what survivors they found

13th Century

First Known Use of what

13th century


WHAT Defined for English Language Learners

1

what

play
pronoun \ˈhwät, ˈhwət, ˈwät, ˈwət\

Definition of what for English Language Learners

  • —used to ask for information about someone or something

  • —used to describe a question

  • —used to express surprise, excitement, etc.


2

what

adverb

Definition of what for English Language Learners

  • : in what way


3

what

adjective

Definition of what for English Language Learners

  • —used to ask someone to indicate the identity or nature of someone or something

  • —used to say that someone or something is remarkable for having good or bad qualities

  • —used to refer to an amount that someone has, uses, etc.


WHAT Defined for Kids

1

what

play
pronoun \ˈhwät, ˈhwət, ˈwät, ˈwət\

Definition of what for Students

  1. 1 :  which thing or things What happened?

  2. 2 :  which sort of thing or person What is this? What are they, doctors? … “what could be more important than doing unimportant things?” — Norton Juster, The Phantom Tollbooth

  3. 3 :  that which Do what you're told. From what he said, I guessed he was new.

  4. 4 —used to ask someone to repeat something You did what?

  5. 5 :  1whatever 1 Take what you need.

what for

  1. :  1why He seemed in a very bad temper … though I could not tell what for. — Anna Sewell, Black Beauty

what if

  1. 1 :  what would happen if What if they find out?

  2. 2 :  what does it matter if So what if they do? I don't care.


2

what

play
adverb

Definition of what for Students

  1. 1 :  in what way :  how What does it matter?

  2. 2 —used before one or more phrases that tell a cause What with the school and sports, she's busy.


3

what

play
adjective

Definition of what for Students

  1. 1 —used to ask about the identity of a person, object, or matter What books do you read?

  2. 2 :  how remarkable or surprising What an idea!

  3. 3 :  2whatever 1 I don't know what else to say.



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