whatsis

[ hwuhts-is, hwots-, wuhts-, wots- ]
/ ˈʰwʌts ɪs, ˈʰwɒts-, ˈwʌts-, ˈwɒts- /

noun Informal.

a thing or object whose name one does not know or cannot recall.

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Origin of whatsis

Reduction of what's this
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2020

VOCAB BUILDER

What does whatsis mean?

Whatsis is a very informal word for an object whose name you don’t know, have forgotten, or can’t recall at the moment.

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 whatsis here. 

The word 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’stheirname).

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

Example: My kids got me a whatsis that tracks your steps. What’s it called? A stepometer?

Where does whatsis come from?

The first records of the word whatsis come from the 1800s. It’s a shortening of the question What’s this?

Today, the word 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 word like whatsis). 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 synonyms for whatsis?

What are some words that share a root or word element with whatsis

 

What are some words that often get used in discussing whatsis?

 

How is whatsis used in real life?

Whatsis 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.

 

Try using whatsis!

Is whatsis used correctly in the following sentence?

This darn whatsis doesn’t even work anymore—can you pick up another one at the store?