what for

Idioms & Phrases

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]

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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