what-do-you-call-it

or whad·dya·call·it

[ hwuhd-uh-yuh-kawl-it, hwod-, wuhd-, wod- ]
/ ˈʰwʌd ə yəˌkɔl ɪt, ˈʰwɒd-, ˈwʌd-, ˈwɒd- /

noun Informal.

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VOCAB BUILDER

What does what-do-you-call-it mean?

What-do-you-call-it is a very informal term for an object whose name you don’t know, have forgotten, or can’t recall at the moment.

It’s sometimes spelled whaddyacallit. Similar terms are what’s-it-called and whachamacallit (which is also commonly spelled whatchamacallit).

It’s often used to refer to gadgets or parts of things that might not even have a commonly known name, as in Before we attach the bracket, we have to insert this what-do-you-call-it. 

The term is also sometimes used to refer to things that are not physical objects, such as events, types of media, or abstract concepts. It’s not typically used to refer to people (terms used for this purpose include what’s-her-name, what’s-his-name, and what’s-their-name).

There are several other similarly informal words that are used in the same way as what-do-you-call-it, including whatsit, thingamajig, thingamabob, thingy, doohickey, and doodad.

Example: My kids got me one of those what-do-you-call-its that track your steps. What’s it called? A stepometer?

Where does what-do-you-call-it come from?

The first records of the term what-do-you-call-it spelled in this way come from the 1800s, but variations of the term have been used since at least the 1600s. It’s based on the question What do you call it?

Today, the term is especially used to refer to small, physical objects, but its ambiguous nature means it can be used for all kinds of things (which is really the point of a term like what-do-you-call-it). Sometimes, it’s used just to be a bit funny, even if you actually know the name of the object you’re referring to.

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What are some other forms related to what-do-you-call-it?

  • whaddyacallit (alternate spelling)

What are some synonyms for what-do-you-call-it?

What are some words that share a root or word element with what-do-you-call-it

 

What are some words that often get used in discussing what-do-you-call-it?

 

How is what-do-you-call-it used in real life?

What-do-you-call-it is very informal. It’s especially used in speech as a way for the speaker to refer to something whose name they don’t know or can’t remember at that moment. When people write it, they often don’t use hyphens.

 

Try using what-do-you-call-it!

Is what-do-you-call-it used correctly in the following sentence?

This darn what-do-you-call-it doesn’t even work anymore—can you pick up another one at the store?

Example sentences from the Web for what-do-you-call-it