Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • conj. Used in indirect questions to introduce one alternative: We should find out whether the museum is open. See Usage Notes at doubt, if.
  • conj. Used to introduce alternative possibilities: Whether she wins or whether she loses, this is her last tournament.
  • conj. Either: He passed the test, whether by skill or luck.
  • pro. Archaic Which: "We came in full View of a great Island or Continent, (for we knew not whether)” ( Jonathan Swift).
  • idiom whether or no Regardless of circumstances.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • conj. Introducing a direct interrogative question (often with correlative or) which indicates doubt between alternatives.
  • conj. Used to introduce an indirect interrogative question that consists of multiple alternative possibilities (usually with correlative or).
  • conj. Without a correlative, used to introduce a simple indirect question; if, whether or not.
  • conj. Used to introduce a disjunctive adverbial clause which qualifies the main clause of the sentence (with correlative or).

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • pro. Which (of two); which one (of two); -- used interrogatively and relatively.
  • conj. In case; if; -- used to introduce the first or two or more alternative clauses, the other or others being connected by or, or by or whether. When the second of two alternatives is the simple negative of the first it is sometimes only indicated by the particle not or no after the correlative, and sometimes it is omitted entirely as being distinctly implied in the whether of the first.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • A. interrog. Which (of two)? which one?
  • B. rel. (always in compound relative use, or with the antecedent implied, not expressed). Which (of two, or, less exactly, of more than two).
  • A. interrog. Which (of two. or of the two)? which one (of two)?
  • B. rel. Which (of two); which one (of two); also, more indefinitely, whichever.
  • In troducing the first of two direct (alternative) questions, the second being introduced by or (literally, which of those two things [is true]?).
  • Introducing a single direct question, the al ternative being unexpressed, and sometimes only dimly implied.
  • Introducing the first of two (or more) alternatives, the second being intro duced by or (or or whether).
  • Introducing a single alternative, the other being implied: as, I do not know whether he is yet gone
  • See no.
  • An obsolete form of whither.

Etymologies

Middle English, from Old English hwether; see kwo- in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
Old English hwæþer, from Proto-Germanic *hwaþeraz, comparative form of *hwaz (“who”). Cognate with German weder ("neither"), Swedish hvar, Icelandic hvorr ("each"). (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • Having begun to illustrate the distinction between inquiry if or whether something is and what it is with the question ˜whether there is or is not a centaur or a god™, he then characterizes the knowledge achieved as ˜knowing that it is™.

    Aristotle's Biology

  • But when we are considering the question whether Bathurst and Lowe were needlessly strict or not, the point at issue is _whether plans of escape or rescue existed, and if so, whether they knew of them_.

    The Life of Napoleon I (Volume 2 of 2)

  • This being so, if you doubt the other branch of the proposition, whether he is for you, —whether he is really for you, as I have expressed it, —I propose asking your attention for a while to a few facts.

    Speech of Hon. Abraham Lincoln

  • I ask you to consider whether, so long as the moral constitution of men’s minds shall continue to be the same, after this generation and assemblage shall sink into the grave, and another race shall arise, with the same moral and intellectual development we have, —whether, if that institution is standing in the same irritating position in which it now is, it will not continue an element of division?

    First Joint Debate at Ottawa. Mr. Lincoln's Reply

  • If any person can in earnest doubt whether there be such a thing as good - will in one man towards another (for the question is not concerning either the degree or extensiveness of it, but concerning the affection itself), let it be observed that _whether man be thus_, _or otherwise constituted_, _what is the inward frame in this particular_ is a mere question of fact of natural history not provable immediately by reason.

    Human Nature and Other Sermons

  • But I am now prepared to ask, with emphasis, whether an employment that has been attended with so many ills to the bodies and souls of men; with so much woe and crime; whose results are evil, and only evil continually; an employment which cannot be pursued without tending to destroy the very purposes of the organization of society; without violating the rule which requires us to render a valuable consideration in business; without violating the rule which requires a man to promote the welfare of the whole of the community; which promotes pauperism and crime, and imposes heavy burdens on your fellow-citizens; which is opposed equally to the love of man and the law of God -- _whether this is a moral, or an immoral employment?

    Select Temperance Tracts

  • (not, whether we are prophets;) _whether ministry_, (not, whether we are deacons, ministers:) and both prophecy and ministry are put in the accusative case; and both of them have relation, and are joined unto the participle of the plural number _having_, intimating that divers do share in prophecy, pastor and teacher; divers in ministry, deacon and ruling elder.

    The Divine Right of Church Government by Sundry Ministers Of Christ Within The City Of London

  • I am willing and anxious that they should consider them fully; that they should turn it about and consider the importance of the question, and arrive at a just conclusion as to whether it is or is not wise in the people of this Union, in the acquisition of new territory, to consider whether it will add to the disturbance that is existing amongst us, —whether it will add to the one only danger that has ever threatened the perpetuity of the Union or our own liberties.

    Fifth Joint Debate at Galesburg. Mr. Lincoln's Reply

  • This network,not only should be boycotted by Democrats,but by all people who are brought to the station to be ridiculed by these pundits whether it is Cavuto,Hannity or O’Reilly for their beliefs…The Congress should examine their FCC license..whether they are serving the public or only serving one group that Rupport Mardock wants them to serve.

    Think Progress » Cavuto Battles Frank: ‘Congressman, Is It Always Incumbent Upon You To Be So Condescending?’

  • God: _whether you eat or whether you drink, or whatsoever else you do, do all to the glory of God_. [

    On Prayer and The Contemplative Life

Comments

Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.