which

[hwich, wich]

pronoun

adjective


Origin of which

before 900; Middle English; Old English hwilc, hwelc, equivalent to hwe- (base of hwā who) + -līc body, shape, kind (see like1); cognate with Old Frisian hwelik, Dutch welk, German welch, Gothic hwileiks literally, of what form
Can be confusedthat which (see usage note at that)

Usage note

The relative pronoun which refers to inanimate things and to animals: The house, which we had seen only from a distance, impressed us even more as we approached. The horses which pulled the coach were bay geldings. Formerly, which referred to persons, but this use, while still heard ( a man which I know ), is nonstandard. Contrary to the teachings of some usage guides, which introduces both restrictive and nonrestrictive clauses. The “rule” that which can be used only with nonrestrictive clauses has no basis in fact. In edited prose three-fourths of the clauses in which which is the relative pronoun are restrictive: A novel which he later wrote quickly became a bestseller. See also that.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019


British Dictionary definitions for which

which

determiner

  1. used with a noun in requesting that its referent be further specified, identified, or distinguished from the other members of a classwhich house did you want to buy?
  2. (as pronoun)which did you find?
  3. (used in indirect questions)I wondered which apples were cheaper
  1. whatever of a class; whicheverbring which car you want
  2. (as pronoun)choose which of the cars suit you
used in relative clauses with inanimate antecedentsthe house, which is old, is in poor repair
as; and that: used in relative clauses with verb phrases or sentences as their antecedentshe died of cancer, which is what I predicted
the which archaic a longer form of which, often used as a sentence connector

Word Origin for which

Old English hwelc, hwilc; related to Old High German hwelīh (German welch), Old Norse hvelīkr, Gothic hvileiks, Latin quis, quid

xref

See that
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 which
pron.

Old English hwilc (West Saxon) "which," short for hwi-lic "of what form," from Proto-Germanic *khwilikaz (cf. Old Saxon hwilik, Old Norse hvelikr, Swedish vilken, Old Frisian hwelik, Middle Dutch wilk, Dutch welk, Old High German hwelich, German welch, Gothic hvileiks "which"), from *khwi- "who" (see who) + *likan "body, form" (cf. Old English lic "body;" see like (adj.)). In Middle English used as a relative pronoun where Modern English would use who, as still in the Lord's Prayer. Old English also had parallel forms hwelc and hwylc, which disappeared 15c.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with which

which

In addition to the idioms beginning with which

  • which is which
  • which way the wind blows

also see:

  • every which way
  • know which side of bread is buttered
  • (which) way the wind blows
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.