hwæt

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See also: hƿæt

Old English[edit]

Alternative forms[edit]

Etymology[edit]

From Proto-Germanic *hwat, from Proto-Indo-European *kʷod. Cognates include Old Frisian hwet, Old Saxon hwat, Old Dutch wat, Old High German waz, Old Norse hvat. The Indo-European root also led to Latin quod, Lithuanian kàd, and Irish cad.

Pronunciation[edit]

Pronoun[edit]

hwæt n

  1. what
  2. why
    • c. 900, The Consolation of Philosophy
      Hwæt seofast þū wiþ mē?
      Why are you groaning at me?
    • c. 990, Wessex Gospels, John 4:27
      His leorningcneohtas wundrodon þæt hē wiþ wīf spræc, þēah heora nān ne cwæþ “Hwæt sēcst þū?” oþþe “Hwæt spricst þū wiþ hīe?”
      His disciples were amazed that he was talking to a woman, though none of them said “What are you looking for?” or “Why are you talking to her?”
  3. how many or how much (+genitive)
    • late 10th century, Ælfric, “Palm Sunday: On the Lord’s Passion”
      Iūdās sōna ēode tō þāra Iudēisċena rǣde and openlīċe befrān hwæt hīe him fēos ġeūðen ġif hē þone Hǣlend him belǣwan mihte.
      Judas immediately went to the Jewish council and openly asked how much money they would give him for betraying Jesus.
    • c. 900, translation of Orosius’ History Against the Pagans
      Be þām hringum man meahte witan hwæt Rōmāna duguþe ġefeallen wæs, for þon þe hit wæs þēaw mid him on þām dagum þæt nān ōðer ne mōste gyldenne hring werian būtan hē æðeles cynnes wǣre.
      You could tell by the rings how much of the Roman nobility had fallen, because the custom back then was that no one could wear a gold ring unless they were from a noble family.
    • c. 900, translation of Orosius' History Against the Pagans
      Hwæðer Rōmāne hit witon nū ǣnigum menn tō seċġenne hwæt heora folces on Ispāniam on fēawum ġēarum forwurde?
      Did the Romans know any longer how many of their people had perished in Spain within a few years?
    • The Dialogues of Solomon and Saturn
      Sæġe mē hwæt fisċcynna sīe.
      Tell me how many species of fish there are.
  4. anything, something
    • c. 900, translation of Orosius' History Against the Pagans
      Sēo lēo bringþ hungrigum hwelpum hwæt tō etenne.
      The lion brings hungry cubs something to eat.
    • c. 1011, Byrhtferth, Manual
      Ġif þū tōdǣlst hwæt on fēower, se fēorða dǣl biþ quadrans ġeċīeġed, and þā ōðre dōdrantēs bēoþ ġenemnede.
      If you divide anything into fours, one part is called a quadrans (Latin for ‘one fourth’), and the other three are called dodrantes (Latin for ‘three fourths’).
    • late 10th century, Ælfric, “Preface to Genesis”
      Þā unġelǣredan prēostas, ġif hīe hwæt lȳtles understandaþ of þām Lǣdenbōcum, þonne þyncþ him sōna þæt hīe mæġen mǣre lārēowas bēon.
      If uneducated priests understand anything at all (lit. ‘anything little’) from the Latin texts, they immediately think they can be famous teachers.
  5. who (in questions and implied questions about who someone is)
    • late 10th century, Ælfric, the Old English Hexateuch, Genesis 27:32
      Þā cwæþ Isaāc, “Hwæt eart þū?” Hē andwyrde and cwæþ, “Iċ eom Ēsau.”
      Then Isaac said, “Who are you?” He answered and said, “I'm Esau.”
    • c. 990, Wessex Gospels, John 21:12
      Nān þāra þe þǣr sæt ne dorste hine āxian hwæt hē wǣre. Hīe wiston þæt hit wæs Dryhten.
      No one sitting there dared to ask him who he was. They knew it was the Lord.
    • late 10th century, Ælfric, “The Second Sunday After Pentecost”
      Ġif iċ wiste hwæt hē wǣre, iċ wolde liċġan æt his fōtum.
      If I'd known who he was, I would have lain at his feet.
    • late 10th century, Ælfric, “The Passion of the Apostles Simon and Jude”
      Se ealdormann hīe befrān hwæt hīe wǣren, oþþe hwanon hīe cōmen, oþþe hwȳ hīe þider cōmen.
      The general asked them who they were, where they came from, and why they came there.
    • c. 990, Wessex Gospels, John 8:52-53
      Þā cwǣdon þā Iūdēas, “Nū wē witon þæt þū eart wōd. Ābrahām wæs dēad, and þā wītegan, and þū cwist, ‘Ġif hwā mīn word ġehielt, ne biþ hē nǣfre dēad.’ Cwist þū þæt þū sīe mǣrra þonne ūre fæder Ābrahām, þe wæs dēad? And þā wītegan wǣron dēade! Hwæt þyncþ þē þæt þū sīe?”
      Then the Jews said, “Now we know you’re crazy. Abraham died, and so did the prophets, and you say, ‘If anyone keeps my word, they will never die.’ Are you saying you’re greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you think you are?”

Declension[edit]

Descendants[edit]

  • English: what

Interjection[edit]

hwæt

  1. what!, listen!, hey!

Adverb[edit]

hwæt

  1. now, indeed

References[edit]