Also found in: Dictionary.
1. Added as a tag to the end of a sentence to emphasize one's uncertainty about something. A: "The boss said that they needed to make a lot of layoffs." B: "So are you out of a job, or what?" I can't tell if you're just trying to mess with me or what, but this is not funny at all.
2. Said as a retort to a vague threat, asking what exactly will happen if one does not comply or obey. A: "You had better stop looking into the boss's financial records!" B: "Oh yeah? Or what?" A: "Or you might find yourself taking a long walk off a short pier, that's what!"
Added to a yes-no question as a means of emphasizing that "yes" is the correct answer. Wow, do you two make a cute couple or what? I got you those concert tickets you were yammering on about. Am I good brother, or what?
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2022 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
a way of adding emphasis to a yes-or-no question the speaker has asked. (In effect, if it wasn't what I said, what is it?) Bob: Now, is this a fine day or what? John: Looks okay to me. Tom: Look at Bill and Mary. Do they make a fine couple or what? Bob: Sure, they look great.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
A phrase following a statement that adds emphasis or suggests an option. For example, in Is this a good movie or what? the phrase asks for confirmation or agreement. However, it also may ask for an alternative, as in Is this book a biography or what? In the 1700s it generally asked for a choice among a series of options, and it still has this function, as in In what does John excel? in imagination? in reasoning powers? in mathematics? or what?
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
1 used to emphasize your opinion: Is he stupid or what?
2 used when you are not sure about something: Come on! Are we going or what?
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017
phr. or what else can it be? (Part of a special formula that asks if something is a good example or specimen of something. The expected answer is yes. The question “Is this an X or what?” means “If this isn’t a really great X, what is it then?”) Look at what I am wearing! Is that a great jacket or what?
McGraw-Hill's Dictionary of American Slang and Colloquial Expressions Copyright © 2006 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved.
Informal Used as an intensive at the end of a question: Is he crazy, or what? Are you a genius, or what?
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Isn’t that so? This rhetorical question always follows a statement and serves either to emphasize its truth or indicate that its answer is obvious. For example, “Is this fun or what?” says emphatically that this pursuit is fun. As a slangy usage, it dates from the 1960s. However, the phrase can also be the last choice among a series of options, and this usage dates from the mid-1700s. For example, a diary entry by John Adams in 1766 stated, “In what is this man conspicuous? in reasoning? imagination? in painting? in the pathetic? or what?”
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer