From Middle English whetten, from Old English hwettan (to whet, sharpen, incite, encourage), from Proto-Germanic *hwatjaną (to incite, sharpen), from Proto-Indo-European *kʷēd- (sharp). Cognate with Dutch wetten (to whet, sharpen), German wetzen (to whet, sharpen), Icelandic hvetja (to whet, encourage, catalyze), dialectal Danish hvæde (to whet).



whet (third-person singular simple present whets, present participle whetting, simple past and past participle whetted or whet)

  1. (transitive) To hone or rub on with some substance, as a piece of stone, for the purpose of sharpening – see whetstone.
  2. (transitive) To stimulate or make more keen.
    to whet one's appetite or one's courage
    • c. 1599, William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, Act II scene i[2]:
      Since Cassius first did whet me against Caesar, / I have not slept.
    • 1925-29, Mahadev Desai (translator), M.K. Gandhi, The Story of My Experiments with Truth, Part I, chapter xv[3]:
      My faith in vegetarianism grew on me from day to day. Salt's book whetted my appetite for dietetic studies. I went in for all books available on vegetarianism and read them.
    • 2003 October 9, Naomi Wolf, “The Porn Myth”, in New York Magazine[4]:
      In the end, porn doesn’t whet men’s appetites—it turns them off the real thing.
  3. (transitive, obsolete) To preen.

Derived termsEdit



whet (plural whets)

  1. The act of whetting something.
  2. That which whets or sharpens; especially, an appetizer.
    • (Can we date this quote by Spectator and provide title, author’s full name, and other details?)
      sips, drams, and whets
    • 1769, Elizabeth Raffald, The Experienced English Housekeeper
      To make a nice Whet before Dinner []