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whatsit

[ hwuhts-it, hwots-, wuhts-, wots- ]
/ ˈʰwʌts ɪt, ˈʰwɒts-, ˈwʌts-, ˈwɒts- /
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noun Informal.

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Origin of whatsit

Reduction of what is it
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2021

VOCAB BUILDER

What does whatsit mean?

Whatsit 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 whatsit 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 commonly 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, including the very similar term whatsis as well as whachamacallit, what-do-you-call-it, thingamajig, thingamabob, thingy, doohickey, and doodad.

Example: My kids got me one of those whatsits that track your steps. What’s it called? A stepometer?

Where does whatsit come from?

The first records of the word whatsit come from the 1800s. It’s a shortening of the question What is it?

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 whatsit). 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 whatsit?

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

 

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

 

How is whatsit used in real life?

Whatsit 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 whatsit!

Is whatsit used correctly in the following sentence?

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

British Dictionary definitions for whatsit

whatsit

whatsitsname, masculine whatshisname or feminine whatshername

/ (ˈwɒtsɪt) /

noun

informal a person or thing the name of which is unknown, temporarily forgotten, or deliberately overlooked
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
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