what for

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what for

1. Why? For what reason? A: "You're both in deep trouble." B: "What for? We didn't do anything." A: "We'll have to stop by the grocery store on the way home." B: "What for?" A: "We need milk and eggs."
2. A scolding, rebuke, or punishment. Sometimes hyphenated. My grandmother wouldn't hesitate to give me what for when my parents weren't around. The boss is quick to give you the what for if you make even a minor mistake.
See also: for, what
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

*what for

 
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?
See also: for, what
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

what 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]
See also: for, 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.

what for?

for what purpose or reason?: What is this tool for?What did you do that for? (= why did you do that)‘I need to see a doctor.’ ‘What for?’
See also: what
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017

what for

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?
See also: for, 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.
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