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wheth·​er ˈ(h)we-t͟hər How to pronounce whether (audio)
used as a function word usually with correlative or or with or whether to indicate (1) until the early 19th century a direct question involving alternatives; (2) an indirect question involving stated or implied alternatives
decide whether he should agree or raise objectionswondered whether to stay
; (3) alternative conditions or possibilities
see me no more, whether he be dead or no William Shakespeareseated him next to her whether by accident or design


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archaic : which one of the two
archaic : whichever one of the two
whether or no or whether or not
: in any case
they've only been married a very few weeks, whether or no Thomas Hardy

Example Sentences

Conjunction That supposes I would have the wisdom to decide what is in fact right and what is wrong, and the humility to consider whether any action I could take would make things better or worse. P. D. James, The Private Patient, 2008 In his later years, Turing turned to the question of whether machines could be made to think the central question of artificial intelligence. Chuck Leddy, Boston Globe, 15 Jan. 2006 If you tell me that something is a pleasure, I do not know whether it is more like revenge, or buttered toast, or success, or adoration, or relief from danger, or a good scratch. C. S. Lewis, An Experiment in Criticism, 1961 I don't know whether they were invited. She was uncertain whether to go or stay. Pronoun … we did not indeed know where it was, and so we might get a great deal, or a little, we did not know whether;  … Daniel Defoe, The Adventures of Captain Singleton, 1720 See More
Recent Examples on the Web
At the conclusion of the hearing, slated to last three days, Judge Lisa Novak will determine whether there is enough evidence for Li and Bayat to stand trial before a jury. Aaron Kinney, The Mercury News, 23 Feb. 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'whether.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History


Pronoun and Conjunction

Middle English, from Old English hwæther, hwether; akin to Old High German hwedar which of two, Latin uter, Greek poteros, Old English hwā who — more at who

First Known Use


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined above


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of whether was before the 12th century

Dictionary Entries Near whether

Cite this Entry

“Whether.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/whether. Accessed 6 Dec. 2022.

Kids Definition



: if it is or was true that
ask whether they are going
: if it is or was better
uncertain whether to go or stay
used to introduce two or more situations of which only one can occur
whether we succeed or fail, we must trywe're going whether or not you come

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