See also: WHO



From Middle English who, hwo, huo, wha, hwoa, hwa, from Old English hwā (dative hwām, genitive hwæs), from Proto-Germanic *hwaz, from Proto-Indo-European *kʷos, *kʷis.

The sound change /hw/ > /h/ (without a corresponding change in spelling) due to wh-cluster reduction after an irregular change of /aː/ to /oː/ in Middle English (instead of the expected /ɔː/) and further to /uː/ regularly in Early Modern English. Compare how, which underwent wh-reduction earlier (in Old English), and thus is spelt with h.

Compare Scots wha, West Frisian wa, Dutch wie, Low German we, German wer, Danish hvem, Norwegian Bokmål hvem, Norwegian Nynorsk kven, Icelandic hver.


  • enPR: ho͞o, IPA(key): /huː/
  • (file)
  • (file)
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -uː


who (singular or plural, nominative case, objective whom, who, possessive whose)

  1. (interrogative) What person or people; which person or people; asks for the identity of someone. (used in a direct or indirect question)
    Who is that? (direct question)
    I don't know who it is. (indirect question)
  2. (interrogative) What is one's position; asks whether someone deserves to say or do something.
    I don't like what you did, but who am I to criticize you? I've done worse.
  3. (relative) The person or people that.
    Her sister who worked here is an enemy of his.
    • 2014 March 3, Zoe Alderton, “‘Snapewives’ and ‘Snapeism’: A Fiction-Based Religion within the Harry Potter Fandom”, in Religions[1], volume 5, number 1, MDPI, DOI:10.3390/rel5010219, pages 219-257:
      Despite personal schisms and differences in spiritual experience, there is a very coherent theology of Snape shared between the wives. To examine this manifestation of religious fandom, I will first discuss the canon scepticism and anti-Rowling sentiment that helps to contextualise the wider belief in Snape as a character who extends beyond book and film.
  4. (relative) Whoever, he who, they who.
    It was a nice man who helped us.

Usage notesEdit

  • Who is a subject pronoun. Whom is an object pronoun. To determine whether a particular sentence uses a subject or an object pronoun, rephrase it to use he/she/they or him/her/them instead of who, whom; if you use he, she or they, then you use the subject pronoun who; if you use him, her or them, then you use the object pronoun. The same rule applies to whoever and whomever.
  • Who can also be used as an object pronoun, especially in informal writing and speech (hence one hears not only whom are you waiting for? but also who are you waiting for?), and whom may be seen as (overly) formal; in some dialects and contexts, it is hardly used, even in the most formal settings. As an exception to this, fronted prepositional phrases almost always use whom, e.g. one usually says with whom did you go?, not *with who did you go?. However, dialects in which whom is rarely used usually avoid fronting prepositional phrases in the first place (for example, using who did you go with?).
  • The use of who as an object pronoun is proscribed by many authorities, but is frequent nonetheless. It is usually felt as much more acceptable than the converse hypercorrection in which whom is misused in place of who, as in *the savage whom spoke to me.
  • When “who” (or the other relative pronouns “that” and “which”) is used as the subject of a relative clause, the verb typically agrees with the antecedent of the pronoun. Thus “I who am...”, “He who is...”, “You who are...”, etc.
  • Formerly sometimes with partitive of, where which is ordinarily used



who (plural whos)

  1. A person under discussion; a question of which person.
    • 2008 March 21, The New York Times, “Movie Guide and Film Series”, in New York Times[2]:
      A wham-bam caper flick, efficiently directed by Roger Donaldson, that fancifully revisits the mysterious whos and speculative hows of a 1971 London bank heist.



  1. (interrogative, dialect, African-American Vernacular) whose
    Who phone just rang?


Middle EnglishEdit

Alternative formsEdit


From Old English hwā, from Proto-West Germanic *hwaʀ, from Proto-Germanic *hwaz, from Proto-Indo-European *kʷos, *kʷis.


  • IPA(key): /ʍɔː/, /ʍoː/
  • (northern or early) IPA(key): /ʍɑː/


who (singular or plural, nominative case, accusative/dative whom, genitive whos, inanimate what)

  1. (interrogative) who (nominative)
  2. (relative) who (nominative)
  3. (relative) whoever, anyone who (usually nominative)
  4. (indefinite) anyone, someone (nominative)

Usage notesEdit

  • The non-relative indefinite sense is rare outside of the expression as who (as one).
  • In Middle English, use of who as an accusative is rare and restricted to the sense of "whoever".


  • English: who
  • Scots: wha
  • Yola: fho