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1. Fig. a scolding; a stern lecture. (*Typically: get ~; give someone ~.) Billy's mother gave him what for because he didn't get home on time. I will really give you what for if you don't straighten up.
2. Why?; For what reason? Father: "I want you to clean your room." Child: "What for? It's clean enough." What did you do that for?
1. For what purpose or reason, why, as in I know you're going to England, but what for? [Mid-1700s]
2. A punishment or scolding, as in You'll get what for from Mom if she catches you smoking, or The teacher really gave Bud what for. [Colloquial; second half of 1800s]
1. A scolding or strong reprimand: The teacher gave the tardy student what for.
2. For what reason; why: Give the present back.—What for?