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From Middle English whetten, from Old English hwettan (to whet, sharpen, incite, encourage), from Proto-West Germanic *hwattjan, from Proto-Germanic *hwatjaną (to incite, sharpen), from Proto-Indo-European *kʷēd- (sharp).

Cognate with Dutch wetten (to whet, sharpen), German wetzen (to whet, sharpen), Icelandic hvetja (to whet, encourage, catalyze), dialectal Danish hvæde (to whet).



whet (third-person singular simple present whets, present participle whetting, simple past and past participle whetted or whet)

  1. (transitive) To hone or rub on with some substance, as a piece of stone, for the purpose of sharpening – see whetstone.
  2. (transitive) To stimulate or make more keen.
    to whet one's appetite or one's courage
    • c. 1599, William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, Act II scene i[2]:
      Since Cassius first did whet me against Caesar, / I have not slept.
    • 1925-29, Mahadev Desai (translator), M.K. Gandhi, The Story of My Experiments with Truth, Part I, chapter xv[3]:
      My faith in vegetarianism grew on me from day to day. Salt's book whetted my appetite for dietetic studies. I went in for all books available on vegetarianism and read them.
    • 2003 October 9, Naomi Wolf, “The Porn Myth”, in New York Magazine[4]:
      In the end, porn doesn’t whet men’s appetites—it turns them off the real thing.
  3. (transitive, obsolete) To preen.

Derived terms[edit]



whet (plural whets)

  1. The act of whetting something.
  2. That which whets or sharpens; especially, an appetizer.