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At first—in 1776—spelled wass-ist-dass, from German was ist das? (who's there?, literally what is that?).

The French adopted the expression as a name for the small windows over the doors to German homes, because the inhabitants often asked the French was ist das? through the windows before letting them in.



vasistas m (plural vasistas)

  1. transom window (window above a door or another window)
    • 1938, Francis Carco, L’Homme de Minuit:
      Jim manœuvra le cordon d’un vasistas, mais l’ouverture donnait sur la loge de Gaby Million où la vedette avait laissé ses chiens. Les bêtes se mirent à aboyer.
      Jim maneuvered a rope from the transom, but the opening overlooked the lodge where the star Gaby Million had left her dogs. The creatures began to bark.
  2. fortochka (small ventilation window)

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