wheth·​er | \ ˈ(h)we-t͟hər How to pronounce whether (audio) , (ˌ)(h)wə- \

Definition of whether

 (Entry 1 of 2)

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
whether or no or whether or not
: in any case they've only been married a very few weeks, whether or no— Thomas Hardy



Definition of whether (Entry 2 of 2)

1 archaic : which one of the two
2 archaic : whichever one of the two

Examples of whether in a Sentence

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
Recent Examples on the Web: Conjunction 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.

First Known Use of whether


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined above


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

History and Etymology for whether

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More About whether

Time Traveler for whether

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Dictionary Entries Near whether



whet one's appetite

See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for whether

Cite this Entry

“Whether.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/whether. Accessed 19 Sep. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for whether



English Language Learners Definition of whether

: if it is or was true that
: if it is or was better
used to indicate choices or possibilities


wheth·​er | \ ˈhwe-t͟hər How to pronounce whether (audio) , ˈwe- \

Kids Definition of whether

1 : if it is or was true that See whether they've left.
2 : if it is or was better I wondered whether to stay or go home.
3 used to introduce two or more situations of which only one can occur The game will be played whether it rains or shines.

More from Merriam-Webster on whether

Nglish: Translation of whether for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of whether for Arabic Speakers


Test Your Vocabulary

Farm Idioms Quiz

  • cow coming home
  • What does 'poke' refer to in the expression 'pig in a poke'?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!