Dictionary > English Dictionary > Definition, synonym and antonym of when
Meaning of when by Wiktionary Dictionary



    From Middle English when( ne ), whan( ne ), from Old English hwenne, hwænne, hwonne ( “when” ), from Proto-Germanic *hwannē ( “at what time, when” ), from Proto-Indo-European *kʷo-, *kʷi- ( “interrogative base” ). Cognate with Dutch wanneer ( “when” ), German wann ( “when” ), German wenn ( “when, if” ), Gothic ������ ( ƕan, “when, how” ), Latin quandō ( “when” ). More at who .

    Interjection sense: a playful misunderstanding of "say when" ( i.e. say when you want me to stop ) as "say [the word] when" .


    • ( UK ) enPR: hwĕn, IPA: /ʍɛn/, X-SAMPA: /WEn/
    • ( US ) enPR: wĕn, hwĕn, IPA: /wɛn/, /ʍɛn/, X-SAMPA: /wEn/, /WEn/
    • Rhymes: -ɛn
    • Homophone: wen ( in accents with the wine-whine merger )


    when ( not comparable )

    1. ( interrogative ) Used to introduce questions about time .
      When will they arrive?
    2. Used to introduce indirect questions about time .
      Do you know when they arrived?
      Do you know when they will arrive?
      Do you know when they arrive?

    Usage notes



    1. At what time .
      They were told when to sleep .
    2. At such time as .
      I’m happiest when I’m working .
    3. As soon as .
      I’ll do it when I get the time .
    4. At a time in the past,
      It was raining when I came yesterday .



    1. ( interrogative ) What time; which time
      Since when do I need your permission?


    when ( plural: whens )

    1. The time .
      A good article will cover the who, the what, the when, the where, the why and the how .

    See also



    1. That's enough, a command to stop adding something, especially an ingredient of food or drink.



Definition of when by GCIDE Dictionary


  1. When adv. [OE. when, whan, whenne, whanne, AS. hwænne, hwanne, hwonne; akin to OS. hwan, OD. wan, OHG. wanne, G. wann when, wenn if, when, Goth. hwan when, and to E. who. See Who.]

    1. At what time; -- used interrogatively.

    When shall these things be? Matt. xxiv. 3.

    ☞ See the Note under What, pron., 1.

    2. At what time; at, during, or after the time that; at or just after, the moment that; -- used relatively.

    Kings may

    Take their advantage when and how they list. Daniel.

    Book lore ne'er served, when trial came,

    Nor gifts, when faith was dead. J. H. Newman.

    3. While; whereas; although; -- used in the manner of a conjunction to introduce a dependent adverbial sentence or clause, having a causal, conditional, or adversative relation to the principal proposition; as, “he chose to turn highwayman when he might have continued an honest man; he removed the tree when it was the best in the grounds”.

    4. Which time; then; -- used elliptically as a noun.

    I was adopted heir by his consent;

    Since when, his oath is broke. Shak.

    ☞ When was formerly used as an exclamation of surprise or impatience, like what!

    Come hither; mend my ruff:

    Here, when! thou art such a tedious lady! J. Webster.

    When as, When that, at the time that; when. [Obs.]

    When as sacred light began to dawn. Milton.

    When that mine eye is famished for a look. Shak.