what

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English

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Wikipedia

Etymology

From Middle English what, from Old English hwæt (what), from Proto-Germanic *hwat (what), from Proto-Indo-European *kʷód (what), neuter form of *kʷós (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

Determiner

what

  1. (interrogative) Which, especially which of an open-ended set of possibilities.
    What colour are you going to use?
    What time is it?
    What kind of car is that?
  2. (relative) Which; the ... that.
    I know what colour I am going to use.
    That depends on what answer is received.
  3. (relative) Any ... that; all ... that; whatever.
    He seems to have lost what sense he had.
    What money I earn is soon spent.
  4. Emphasises that something is noteworthy or remarkable in quality or degree, in either a good or bad way; may be used in combination with certain other determiners, especially 'a', less often 'some'.
    This shows what beauty there is in nature.
    You know what nonsense she talks.
    I found out what a liar he is.
    1. Used to form exclamations.
      Synonym: such
      What nonsense!
      Wow! What a speech.
      What some lovely weather we've been having!
      What beautiful children you have.
      With what passion she sings!
      • Little Red Riding Hood, traditional folk tale
        “Oh Granny, what big eyes you have,” said Little Red Riding Hood.

Usage notes

In cases where both "what" and "which" are possible, with similar meaning, "what" is preferred for open-ended choices, while "which" is preferred for choices from a closed group or set. For example, "Which one of these do you want?" not "What one of these do you want?".

As used to begin an exclamation, what and such are largely interchangeable, with a few exceptions:

  • Nouns modified by such need not appear at the beginning of the sentence: She sings with such passion.
  • such requires that the noun phrase it modifies be gradable in some way. Such a disaster! is acceptable because a disaster may be minor or major in degree, but Such a movie! is not (except with the unusual meaning that the movie under discussion has especially "movie-like" qualities).

how is another word used at the beginning of a sentence to form an exclamation (How quickly he ran!), but it modifies different syntactic elements (verbs, adjectives, adverbs, and certain determinatives).

Translations

The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.
The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.

Pronoun

what

  1. (interrogative) Which thing, event, circumstance, etc.: used in asking for the specification of an identity, quantity, quality, etc.
    What is your name?
    Ask them what they want.
    • 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. (fused relative) That which; those that; the thing(s) that.
    He knows what he wants.
    What is amazing is his boundless energy.
    And, what's even worse, I have to work on Sunday too.
  3. (fused relative) Anything that; all that; whatever.
    I will do what I can to help you.
    What is mine is yours.
  4. (relative, nonstandard) That; which; who.
    'Ere! There's that bloke what I saw earlier!

Translations

Adverb

what (not comparable)

  1. (interrogative) In what way; to what extent.
    What does it matter?
    What do you care?
  2. Used before a prepositional phrase to emphasise that something is taken into consideration as a cause or reason; usually used in combination with 'with' (see what with), and much less commonly with other prepositions.
    • 1787, Henry St. John, Lord Viscount Bolingbroke, Letters on the Study and Use of History: A Letter to Sir William Windham, page 83
      In short; what by the indiscretion of people here, what by the rebound which came often back from London, what by the private interests and ambitious views of persons in the French court, and what by other causes unnecessary to be examined now, the most private transactions came to light
    • 1815, Rev. Mr. Milne, letter reprinted in The Evangelical Magazine and Missionary Chronicle, Volume 23, page 82.
      The Chinese of all ranks, and in every place, received my books gladly, and listened with patience to what I had to say about the true God.—So that what from opportunities of attending to the object of my Mission among the Chinese—what from seasons of religious instruction to Dutch and English—what from intercourse with gentlemen of education and knowledge of the world—what from occasions of stating clearly the object of Missions, and of endeavouring to remove prejudices against them—and what from the view of a highly cultivated country, happy under an enlightened and liberal government, I have much reason to be satisfied with this journey

Translations

The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.
The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.

Interjection

what

  1. An expression of surprise or disbelief.
    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? Used as a type of tag question to emphasise a statement and invite agreement, often rhetorically.
    • 1918, Denis Garstin, The Shilling Soldiers, London: Hodder and Stoughton, page 83:
      “That’s riled them,” said my compaion. “Good work, what?”
    • 1991 May 12, "Kidnapped!" Jeeves and Wooster, Series 2, Episode 5:
      Chuffy: WHAT? No, no, no, no, no. My casa is your casa, what?
    It’s a nice day, what?
  4. What did you say? I beg your pardon?
    — Could I have some of those aarrrrrr mmmm ...
    What?
  5. Indicating a guess or approximation, or a pause to try to recall information.
    I must have been, what, about five years old.

Alternative forms

Synonyms

Translations

The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.

Noun

what (countable and uncountable, plural whats)

  1. (obsolete, uncountable) Something; thing; stuff.
  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.

Particle

what

  1. (Manglish, Singlish) Emphasizes the truth of an assertion made to contradict an evidently false assumption held by the listener.
    — Too bad there aren't any libraries nearby.
    — The National Library is a five-minute walk from here what.
    • 1978, L. C. Cheong, Youth in the Army, page 142:
      Most things come from Europe what.
    • 2007, yansimon52, soc.culture.singapore, Usenet:
      they can't be the same what?

See also

References

  • Low, Ee Ling; Brown, Adam (2005) English in Singapore: An Introduction, →ISBN
  • Kuteva, Tania; Rhee, Seongha; Ziegeler, Debra; Sabban, Jessica (2018), “On sentence-final “what” in Singlish: Are you the Queen of England, or what?”, in Journal of Language Contact

Derived terms

Anagrams


Chinese

Alternative forms

Etymology

From clipping of English WhatsApp.

Pronunciation


Verb

what

  1. (Hong Kong Cantonese) to WhatsApp; to send via WhatsApp

Middle English

Etymology 1

From Old English hwæt, from Proto-West Germanic *hwat, from Proto-Germanic *hwat, from Proto-Indo-European *kʷód.

Alternative forms

Pronunciation

Pronoun

what

  1. what
Descendants

Adverb

what

  1. Why.
  2. Used to introduce each of two coordinate phrases or concepts; both...and...
    • 1485, Sir Thomas Malory, “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
      (please add an English translation of this quote)

References

Etymology 2

Noun

what

  1. Alternative form of whate

Scots

Etymology 1

From Middle English what, from Old English hwæt, from Proto-West Germanic *hwat. Cognates include English what and Yola faade.

Alternative forms

Pronunciation

Pronoun

what

  1. (interrogative) what?
  2. (relative) that, which

Adverb

what

  1. (interrogative) how?
  2. (interrogative) why?
  3. (relative) as, than, how
  4. (exclamatory) how!

Determiner

what

  1. (interrogative) what?
  2. (relative) what, which
  3. (exclamatory) what a lot of! how many!

Etymology 2

From Middle English whetten, from Old English hwettan, from Proto-West Germanic *hwattjan. Cognates include English whet.

Alternative forms

Pronunciation

Verb

what (third-person singular simple present whats, present participle whatin, simple past whatt, past participle whatt)

  1. (transitive) to whet, hone, sharpen

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 what, pron., adv., conj., interj.,.” in the Dictionary of the Scots Language, Edinburgh: Scottish Language Dictionaries.
  2. ^ what, v., n..” in the Dictionary of the Scots Language, Edinburgh: Scottish Language Dictionaries.

Yola

Etymology

From Middle English whetten, from Old English hwettan, from Proto-West Germanic *hwattjan.

Verb

what

  1. to whet

References

  • Jacob Poole (1867), William Barnes, editor, A Glossary, With some Pieces of Verse, of the old Dialect of the English Colony in the Baronies of Forth and Bargy, County of Wexford, Ireland, London: J. Russell Smith, page 78