From Middle English was, from Old English wæs, from Proto-Germanic *was, (compare Scots was, Dutch was, West Frisian was (dated, wie is generally preferred today), Low German was, German war, Swedish var), from Proto-Indo-European *h₂wes- (“to reside”). The paradigm of “to be” has been since the time of Proto-Germanic a synthesis of three originally distinct verb stems. The infinitive form be is from Proto-Indo-European *bʰuH- (“to become”). The forms is and are are both derived from Proto-Indo-European *h₁es- (“to be”). Lastly, the past forms starting with w- such as was and were are from Proto-Indo-European *h₂wes- (“to reside”).
- (colloquial, nonstandard) .
- 1913, Arthur Conan Doyle, The Poison Belt:
- "Was you outside the Bank of England, sir?"
- (colloquial, nonstandard)
- 2001, Darrel Rachel, The Magnolias Still Bloom, page 104:
- “What happened here, Hadley?” the chief asked. “We was robbed, damn it, we was robbed.”
- wat (colloquial in western and parts of northern Germany)
From Middle High German waz, from Old High German waz, hwaz, from Proto-Germanic *hwat, from Proto-Indo-European *kʷod. Cognate with Bavarian was, wås, Silesian woas (was), Dutch wat, English what, Danish hvad. More at what.
- (interrogative) what
Was machst du heute?
- What are you doing today?
- (relative) which (referring to the entire preceding clause)
Sie tanzte gut, was er bewunderte.
- She was a good dancer, which he admired.
- (relative) that, which (referring to das, alles, etwas, nichts, and neuter substantival adjectives)
Das ist alles, was ich will.
- That's all that I want.
Das ist das Beste, was mir passieren konnte.
- That's the best that could have happened to me.
- (relative, colloquial) that, which (referring to neuter singular nouns, instead of standard das)
Siehst du das weiße Haus, was renoviert wird?
- Do you see that white house, which is being renovated?
- (indefinite, colloquial) something, anything (instead of standard etwas)
Ich hab was gefunden.
- I've found something.
- (interrogative, colloquial) why, what for
Was bist du heute so stumm?
- Why are you so silent today?
- Was is colloquially used with prepositions, chiefly but not exclusively in southern regions. Otherwise it is generally replaced with a pronominal adverb containing wo- (or in a few cases wes-). Hence: Womit hast du das gemacht? (“With what did you do that?”), instead of Mit was hast du das gemacht?, and weswegen instead of wegen was.
- The genitive case, and the dative case if necessary for clearness, can be paraphrased by means of welcher Sache (“what thing”). Possessive genitives are more commonly paraphrased with wovon (“of what”).
- The colloquial was meaning "something" can only be the first word in a sentence if followed by an adjective: Was Wichtiges fehlt noch. (“Something important is missing.”) Otherwise the full form etwas must be used: Etwas fehlt noch. (“Something is missing.”) The reason for this is that the latter sentence could be misinterpreted as a question if was were used.
- (archaic) what; what kind of
- 1718, Johann Caspar Schwartz, Johann Caspar Schwartzens Fünfftes Dutzend Wund-artzneyischer Anmerckungen von vielerley Arten der Geschwülste und Geschwüre, Hamburg, page 97:
- [...] denen Thieren und Gewächsen aber, von was Arten und Geschlechten selbige auch nur immer seyn mögen, [...]
- 1742, Johann Christoph Gottsched, Versuch einer Critischen Dichtkunst, Leipzig, page 442:
- Held August, du kühner Krieger! / Du bist der beglückte Sieger, / Vor, und in, und nach dem Fall. / Auf was Arten, auf was Weisen, / Soll man deine Thaten preisen / Hier und da, und überall?
- 1786, Johann Michael Schosulan, Gründlicher Unterricht für das Landvolk: Wie und auf was Weise jedermann seinen etrunkenen, erhängten, erstickten, erfrornen, von Hitze verschmachteten und von Blitz berührten unglücklichen Nebenmenschen Hülfe leisten, der Retter aber für sein eigenes Leben sich selbst sicher stellen solle., Wien, title:
- Wie und auf was Weise jedermann seinen [...] Nebenmenschen Hülfe leisten [...] solle.
- In the dative and genitive feminine, the inflected form waser occurred.
- (colloquial) a little, somewhat
Ich komm' was später.
- I'll arrive a little later.
- apocopated form of wasse (“wash”), (mainly used in the Netherlands, equivalent to other dialects' wasche/waske)
- apocopated form of wasse (“wax”),
- apocopated form of wasse (“grow”),
Notes on the verb węsen (to be): In recent times (~1800) the old subjunctive wer is used in place of was by many speakers. This might be the old subjunctive which is now used as a preterite or a reduction of weren, which is the preterite plural indicative of the verb. It might also be an imitation of the High German cognate war. Many smaller dialectal clusters do this, but no dialect does it. That means: even though there are many regions within e.g. Lower Saxony that use wer for was, maybe even the majority, there is no straight connection between them, i.e. which form is used can depend on preference, speaker and specific region. Due to this "one town this way, one town that way"-nature of the situation no form can be named "standard" for a greater dialect, such as Low Saxon.
- stream, river
- Smith, Ethnogeography of the Mayangna of Nicaragua, in Ethno- and historical geographic studies in Latin America: essays honoring William V. Davidson (2008), page 88: The location of 46 settlements from this list containing the term ”was" —meaning "water" or "stream" — were obtained[.]
From French ouest
- Danielle D’Offay et Guy Lionnet, Diksyonner Kreol - Franse / Dictionnaire Créole Seychellois - Français