- 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
Related Words for what forretribution, discipline, forfeiture, torture, trial, suffering, abuse, sanction, beating, admonition, censure, rebuke, comeuppance, retaliation, reprisal, revenge, compensation, vengeance, redress, reckoning
- 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.
For what purpose or reason, why, as in I know you're going to England, but what for? [Mid-1700s]
A punishment or scolding, as in You'll get what for from Mom if she catches you smoking, or The teacher really gave Bud what for. [Colloquial; second half of 1800s]
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)