- why: What are you doing that for? You want that package now? What for?
- Older Use: Informal.a punishment or scolding: If he stays out late again, his parents are going to give him what for!
Origin of what
- used with a noun in requesting further information about the identity or categorization of somethingwhat job does he do?
- (as pronoun)what is her address?
- (used in indirect questions)does he know what man did this?; tell me what he said
- the (person, thing, persons, or things) thatwe photographed what animals we could see
- (as pronoun)bring me what you've written; come what may
- for what purpose? why?
- informala punishment or reprimand (esp in the phrase give (a person) what for)
- what would happen if?
- what difference would it make if?
Word Origin for what
Old English hwæt, from Proto-Germanic *khwat (cf. Old Saxon hwat, Old Norse hvat, Danish hvad, Old Frisian hwet, Dutch wat, Old High German hwaz, German was, Gothic hva "what"), from PIE *qwod, neuter singular of *qwos "who" (see who).
Meaning "what did you say?" is recorded from c.1300; as an interrogative expletive at the end of sentences it is first recorded 1785, common early 20c. in affected British speech. Or what as an alternative end to a question is first attested 1766. "To give one what for is to respond to his remonstrant what for? by further assault" [Weekley]. The phrase is attested from 1873. What's-his-name for "unspecified person" is attested from 1690s; variant whatsisface is first recorded 1967. What's up? "what is happening?" first recorded 1881.
In addition to the idioms beginning with what
- what about
- what do you know
- what do you take me for?
- what for
- what gives
- what goes around comes around
- what have you
- what if
- what in the world
- what is more
- what it takes
- what makes one tick
- what of it?
- what the hell
- what with
- come what may
- for all one is (what it's) worth
- get what's coming to one
- it's (what) a zoo
- just what the doctor ordered
- know the score (what's what)
- left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing
- no matter (what)
- on earth, what
- or what?
- practice what you preach
- sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, what's
- so what
- where's (what's) the beef?
- you know something (you know what)