Nearby words

  1. wharton's duct,
  2. wharton's jelly,
  3. wharton, edith,
  4. wharve,
  5. wharves,
  6. what about,
  7. what do you know,
  8. what do you take me for?,
  9. what for,
  10. what gives

Idioms

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.

what's

[ hwuhts, hwots, wuhts, wots; unstressed hwuh ts, wuh ts ]
/ ʰwʌts, ʰwɒts, wʌts, wɒts; unstressed ʰwəts, wəts /

contraction of what is or what has: What's the matter? What's been done?
contraction of what does: What's she do for a living?

Usage note


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


British Dictionary definitions for what

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

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

Word Origin and History for what

what

pron.

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.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with what

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.