What
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What

English

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Etymology

From Middle English what, from Old English hwæt ("what"), from Proto-Germanic *hwat ("what"), from Proto-Indo-European *k?ód ("what"), neuter form of *k?ós ("who"). Cognate with Scots whit ("what"), North Frisian wat ("what"), Saterland Frisian wat ("what"), West Frisian wat ("what"), Dutch wat ("what"), Low German wat ("what"), German was ("what"), Danish hvad ("what"), Norwegian Bokmål hva ("what"), Swedish vad ("what"), Norwegian Nynorsk kva ("what"), Icelandic hvað ("what"), Latin quod ("what, which").

Pronunciation

Pronoun

what

  1. (interrogative) Which thing, event, circumstance, etc.: used interrogatively in asking for the specification of an identity, quantity, quality, etc.
    • 2016, VOA Learning English (public domain)
      The gym is across from ... what? — The gym is across from the lounge. — Across from the lounge. Right. Thanks!
      (file)
  2. That which; those that; the thing that.
    He knows what he wants.
    What goes up must come down.
    Keep up with what your friends are doing.
  3. (relative, nonstandard) That; which; who.
  4. Whatever.
    I will do what I can to help you.

Translations

Adverb

what (not comparable)

  1. (usually followed by "with") In some manner or degree; in part; partly. See also what with
    What with singing and joking, the time passed quickly.
  2. Such.
    What a pity.
    What a beautiful day!
  3. (obsolete) Why.
    • (Can we date this quote by Chaucer and provide title, author's full name, and other details?)
      What should I tell the answer of the knight?
    • (Can we date this quote by John Milton and provide title, author's full name, and other details?)
      But what do I stand reckoning upon advantages and gains lost by the misrule and turbulency of the prelates?
  4. (now rare) Used to introduce each of two coordinate phrases or concepts; both...and.
    • 1485, Sir Thomas Malory, chapter primum, in Le Morte Darthur, book III:
      And as for on C good knyghtes I haue my self / but I fawte / l / for so many haue ben slayne in my dayes / and so Ladegreans delyuerd his doughter Gweneuer vnto Merlyn / and the table round with the C knyghtes / and so they rode fresshly with grete royalte / what by water and what by land / tyl that they came nyghe vnto london
  5. (Singlish) Alternative form of wat (used to contradict an assumption)

Synonyms

Translations

The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout#Translations.

Interjection

what

  1. An expression of surprise or disbelief.
    • 1605 Wm. Shakespeare, King Lear
      What, have his daughters brought him to this pass?
    What! That's amazing.
  2. What do you want? An abrupt, usually unfriendly enquiry as to what a person desires.
    What? I'm busy.
  3. (Britain, colloquial, dated) Clipping of what do you say?
    It's a nice day, what?
  4. What did you say? I beg your pardon?
  5. A part of speech used to initiate a sentence. Usually followed by a
    What a nice car.

Alternative forms

Synonyms

Translations

The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout#Translations.

Determiner

what

  1. Which; which kind of.
    What shirt are you going to wear?
    What time is it?
    What kind of car is that?
  2. How much; how great (used in an exclamation).
    What talent he has!
    What a talent!
  3. (relative) Whatever
    Write down what things come into your mind.

Translations

The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout#Translations.

Noun

what (countable and uncountable, plural whats)

  1. (obsolete, uncountable) Something; thing; stuff.
    • (Can we date this quote by Spenser and provide title, author's full name, and other details?)
      They prayd him sit, and gave him for to feed / Such homely what as serves the simple clowne, / That doth despise the dainties of the towne [...]
  2. (countable) The identity of a thing, as an answer to a question of what.
    • 2005, Norman K. Denzin, ?Yvonna S. Lincoln, The SAGE Handbook of Qualitative Research (page 493)
      The emphasis on the interplay between the hows and whats of interpretive practice is paramount.
  3. (countable) Something that is addressed by what, as opposed to a person, addressed by who.
    • 2012, "We Are Both", season 2, episode 2 of Once Upon a Time
      Regina: What are you?
      Rumplestiltskin: What? What? What? My, my, what a rude question! I am not a what.

Derived terms

Anagrams


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