• synonyms


[hwet, wet]
verb (used with object), whet·ted, whet·ting.
  1. to sharpen (a knife, tool, etc.) by grinding or friction.
  2. to make keen or eager; stimulate: to whet the appetite; to whet the curiosity.
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  1. the act of whetting.
  2. something that whets; appetizer or drink.
  3. Chiefly Southern U.S.
    1. a spell of work.
    2. a while: to talk a whet.
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Origin of whet

before 900; Middle English whetten (v.), Old English hwettan (derivative of hwæt bold); cognate with German wetzen, Old Norse hvetja, Gothic gahwatjan to incite
Related formswhet·ter, nounun·whet·ted, adjective
Can be confusedwet whet
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words

hone, sharpen, pique, incite, stimulate, kindle, file, edge, finish, grind, strop, awaken, waken, provoke, challenge, increase, wake, rally, enhance, animate

Examples from the Web for whets

Historical Examples

  • She takes her breasts out of her sark and whets the sword on them.

    In Northern Mists (Volume 1 of 2)

    Fridtjof Nansen

  • The hourly sight of it whets the appetite, and sharpens it to avarice.

    Twelve Causes of Dishonesty

    Henry Ward Beecher

  • We take a pipe of consolation, but it only whets our appetites.

  • It whets the assassin's dagger, and pours poison into the cup of the suicide.

    Woman: Man's Equal

    Thomas Webster

  • But hunger torments and whets his appetite, so that the bread tasted to him like sauce.

    Four Arthurian Romances

    Chretien DeTroyes

British Dictionary definitions for whets


verb whets, whetting or whetted (tr)
  1. to sharpen, as by grinding or friction
  2. to increase or enhance (the appetite, desire, etc); stimulate
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  1. the act of whetting
  2. a person or thing that whets
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Derived Formswhetter, noun

Word Origin

Old English hwettan; related to hvæt sharp, Old High German hwezzen, Old Norse hvetja, Gothic hvatjan
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 whets



Old English hwettan, from Proto-Germanic *khwatjanan (cf. Old Norse hvetja "to sharpen, encourage," Middle Low German, Middle Dutch wetten, Old High German wezzan, German wetzen "to sharpen," Gothic ga-hvatjan "to sharpen, incite"), from an adjective represented by Old English hwæt "brave, bold," Old Saxon hwat "sharp," from Proto-Germanic *khwataz, from PIE root *qwed- "sharp" (cf. Sanskrit codati "incites," literally "sharpens"). Figurative sense was in Old English.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper