Origin of when

before 1000; Middle English when(ne), Old English hwenne; cognate with German wann when, wenn if, when (compare Gothic hwan when, how); akin to who, what


when whencewen when

Definition for when (2 of 2)

[ hwenz, wenz ]
/ ʰwɛnz, wɛnz /

contraction of when is: When's the show over?
contraction of when does: When's the next train leave?
contraction of when has: When's he ever been an authority?

usage note for when's

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

British Dictionary definitions for when

/ (wɛn) /



(usually plural) a question as to the time of some occurrence

Word Origin for when

Old English hwanne, hwænne; related to Old High German hwanne, hwenne, Latin cum

usage for when

When should not be used loosely as a substitute for in which after a noun which does not refer to a period of time: paralysis is a condition in which (not when) parts of the body cannot be moved
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 when


In addition to the idioms beginning with when

  • when all's said and done
  • when in Rome do as the Romans do
  • when it comes to
  • when least expected
  • when one's back is turned
  • when one's ship comes in
  • when pigs fly
  • when the cat's away, the mice will play
  • when the chips are down
  • when the dust has settled
  • when the going gets tough, the tough get going
  • when the shit hits the fan

also see:

  • cross a bridge when one comes to it
  • push comes to shove, when
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.