what-if

[ hwuht-if, hwot‐, wuht‐, wot‐ ]
/ ˈʰwʌtˈɪf, ˈʰwɒt‐, ˈwʌt‐, ˈwɒt‐ /

adjective

hypothetical: a what-if scenario.

noun

a hypothetical case or situation; conjecture: a series of what-ifs.

Origin of what-if

First recorded in 1980–85

Definition for what if (2 of 2)

Origin of what

before 900; Middle English; Old English hwæt; cognate with German was, Dutch wat, Old Norse hvat; akin to Gothic hwa, Latin quod, Greek

Usage note

25. See doubt.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

British Dictionary definitions for what if (1 of 2)

Word Origin for what

Old English hwæt; related to Old Frisian whet, Old High German hwaz (German was), Old Norse hvatr

usage

The use of are in sentences such as what we need are more doctors is common, although many people think is should be used: what we need is more doctors

British Dictionary definitions for what if (2 of 2)

what-if

noun

informal a hypothetical question; speculationone of the great what-ifs of modern history

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Idioms and Phrases with what if (1 of 2)

what if

Suppose that, as in What if the speaker doesn't get here in time? This expression is in effect a shortening of “what would happen if.” It was first recorded about 1420.


Idioms and Phrases with what if (2 of 2)

what

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

also see:

  • 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)

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.