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Webster 1913 Edition


What

What

(hwŏt)
,
p
ron.
,
Adj.
, &
adv.
[AS.
hwæt
, neuter of
hwā
who; akin to OS.
hwat
what, OFries.
hwet
, D. & LG.
wat
, G.
was
, OHG.
waz
,
hwaz
, Icel.
hvat
, Sw. & Dan.
hvad
, Goth.
hwa
. √182. See
Who
.]
1.
As an interrogative pronoun, used in asking questions regarding either persons or things;
as,
what
is this?
what
did you say?
what
poem is this?
what
child is lost?
What
see’st thou in the ground?
Shakespeare
What
is man, that thou art mindful of him?
Ps. viii. 4.
What
manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him!
Matt. viii. 27.
☞ Originally, what, when, where, which, who, why, etc., were interrogatives only, and it is often difficult to determine whether they are used as interrogatives or relatives.
What in this sense, when it refers to things, may be used either substantively or adjectively; when it refers to persons, it is used only adjectively with a noun expressed, who being the pronoun used substantively.
2.
As an exclamatory word: –
(a)
Used absolutely or independently; – often with a question following.
What welcome be thou.”
Chaucer.
What
, could ye not watch with me one hour?
Matt. xxvi. 40.
(b)
Used adjectively, meaning how remarkable, or how great;
as,
what
folly!
what
eloquence!
what
courage!
What
a piece of work is man!
Shakespeare
O
what
a riddle of absurdity!
Young.
What in this use has a or an between itself and its noun if the qualitative or quantitative importance of the object is emphasized.
(c)
Sometimes prefixed to adjectives in an adverbial sense, as nearly equivalent to how;
as,
what
happy boys!
What
partial judges are our love and hate!
Dryden.
3.
As a relative pronoun
: –
(a)
Used substantively with the antecedent suppressed, equivalent to that which, or those [persons] who, or those [things] which; – called a compound relative.
With joy beyond
what
victory bestows.
Cowper.
I'm thinking Captain Lawton will count the noses of
what
are left before they see their whaleboats.
Cooper.
What
followed was in perfect harmony with this beginning.
Macaulay.
I know well . . . how little you will be disposed to criticise
what
comes to you from me.
J. H. Newman.
(b)
Used adjectively, equivalent to the . . . which; the sort or kind of . . . which; rarely, the . . . on, or at, which.
See
what
natures accompany
what
colors.
Bacon.
To restrain
what
power either the devil or any earthly enemy hath to work us woe.
Milton.
We know
what
master laid thy keel,
What
workmen wrought thy ribs of steel.
Longfellow.
(c)
Used adverbially in a sense corresponding to the adjectival use;
as, he picked
what
good fruit he saw
.
4.
Whatever; whatsoever; what thing soever; – used indefinitely.
What after so befall.”
Chaucer.
Whether it were the shortness of his foresight, the strength of his will, . . . or
what
it was.
Bacon.
5.
Used adverbially, in part; partly; somewhat; – with a following preposition, especially, with, and commonly with repetition.
What
for lust [pleasure] and
what
for lore.
Chaucer.
Thus,
what
with the war,
what
with the sweat,
what
with the gallows, and
what
with poverty, I am custom shrunk.
Shakespeare
The year before he had so used the matter that
what
by force,
what
by policy, he had taken from the Christians above thirty small castles.
Knolles.
☞ In such phrases as I tell you what, what anticipates the following statement, being elliptical for what I think, what it is, how it is, etc. “I tell thee what, corporal Bardolph, I could tear her.”
Shak.
Here what relates to the last clause, “I could tear her;” this is what I tell you.

What not is often used at the close of an enumeration of several particulars or articles, it being an abbreviated clause, the verb of which, being either the same as that of the principal clause or a general word, as be, say, mention, enumerate, etc., is omitted. “Men hunt, hawk, and what not.”
Becon.
“Some dead puppy, or log, or what not.”
C. Kingsley.
“Battles, tournaments, hunts, and what not.”
De Quincey.
Hence, the words are often used in a general sense with the force of a substantive, equivalent to anything you please, a miscellany, a variety, etc. From this arises the name whatnot, applied to an étagère, as being a piece of furniture intended for receiving miscellaneous articles of use or ornament.
But what is used for but that, usually after a negative, and excludes everything contrary to the assertion in the following sentence. “Her needle is not so absolutely perfect in tent and cross stitch but what my superintendence is advisable.”
Sir W. Scott.
“Never fear but what our kite shall fly as high.”
Ld. Lytton.
What ho!
an exclamation of calling.
What if
,
what will it matter if; what will happen or be the result if.
What if it be a poison?”
Shak.
What of this?
What of that?
What of it?
etc.
,
what follows from this, that, it, etc., often with the implication that it is of no consequence; so what?
“All this is so; but what of this, my lord?”
Shak.
“The night is spent, why, what of that?”
Shak.
What though
,
even granting that; allowing that; supposing it true that.
What though the rose have prickles, yet't is plucked.”
Shak.
What time
, or
What time as
,
when.
[Obs. or Archaic]
What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.”
Ps. lvi. 3.

What time
the morn mysterious visions brings.
Pope.

What

,
Noun.
Something; thing; stuff.
[Obs.]
And gave him for to feed,
Such homely
what
as serves the simple clown.
Spenser.

What

,
inter
rog.
adv.
Why? For what purpose? On what account?
[Obs.]
What
should I tell the answer of the knight.
Chaucer.
But
what
do I stand reckoning upon advantages and gains lost by the misrule and turbulency of the prelates?
What
do I pick up so thriftily their scatterings and diminishings of the meaner subject?
Milton.

Webster 1828 Edition


What

WHAT

, pronoun relative or substitute. [G., L. See Wight.]
1.
That which. Say what you will, is the same as say that which you will.
2.
Which part. Consider what is due to nature, and what to art or labor.
3.
What is the substitute for a sentence or clause of a sentence. I tell thee what, corporal, I could tear her. Here what relates to the last clause, I could tear her; this is what I tell you.
4.
What is used as an adjective, of both genders, often in specifying sorts or particulars. See what colors this silk exhibits. I know what qualities you desire in a friend; that is, I know the qualities which you desire.
5.
What is much used in asking questions. What sort of character is this? What poem is this? What man is this we see coming?
6.
What time, at the time or on the day when.
What time the morn mysterious visions brings.
7.
To how great a degree.
What a partial judges are our love and hate!
8.
Whatever.
Whether it was the shortness of his foresight, the strength of his will--or what it was--
9.
Some part, or some. The year before, he had so used the matter, that what by force, what by policy, he had taken from the Christians above thirty castles; that is, he had taken above thirty castles; that is, he had taken above thirty castles, a part or some by force, a part or some by policy; or what may be interpreted partly. Sometimes what has no verb to govern it, and it must be considered as adverbially used. What with carrying apples and fuel, he finds himself in a hurry; that is, partly, in part.
10.
What is sometimes used elliptically for what is this, or how is this?
What! Could ye not watch with me one hour? Matthew 26.
11.
What is used interrogatively and elliptically, as equivalent to what will be the consequence? What will follow? As in the phrase, what if I undertake this business myself?
What though, that is, grant this or that; allow it to be so.
What ho, an exclamation of calling.

WHAT

,
Noun.
Fare; things; matter. [Not in use.]

Definition 2022


what

what

English

Pronoun

what

  1. (interrogative) Which thing, event, circumstance, etc.: used interrogatively in asking for the specification of an identity, quantity, quality, etc.
  2. (relative, nonstandard) That; which.
  3. (relative) That which; those that; the thing that.
    • 2013 June 21, Oliver Burkeman, The tao of tech”, in The Guardian Weekly, volume 189, number 2, page 48:
      The dirty secret of the internet is that all this distraction and interruption is immensely profitable. Web companies like to boast [, or offering services that let you "stay up to date with what your friends are doing", [] and so on. But the real way to build a successful online business is to be better than your rivals at undermining people's control of their own attention.
    he knows what he wants;  what is tossed upward falls back down

Translations

Adverb

what (not comparable)

  1. In some manner or degree; in part; partly; usually followed by 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?) Chaucer
      What should I tell the answer of the knight?
    • (Can we date this quote?) John Milton
      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

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. Response that enquires what the asker desires (usually said unhappily).
  3. (Britain, colloquial, dated) Is that not true?
    It’s a nice day, what? (sometimes repeated, e.g.: What-what?)

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!

Translations

Derived terms

Noun

what (uncountable)

  1. (obsolete) Something; thing; stuff.
    • Spenser
      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 []

Statistics

Most common English words before 1923: up · your · any · #59: what · do · has · could

Anagrams