Whatnot or What Not – Usage & Meaning

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Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

Do you know what “whatnot” means? It can actually be used in two completely different contexts, but you first have to understand both uses and how to fit them into a sentence. So, I’ll explain everything you need to know about using this oddball word.

Is Whatnot a Word?

Whatnot or What Not Usage Meaning

I’m happy to report that “whatnot” is a real word in the English language. It’s classified as a noun that’s been in use since the early 16th century. Like a lot of other words, its meaning and the way we use it have evolved over the years, but it’s still a super common expression we use in everyday conversations.

Whatnot Meaning

“Whatnot” is a noun with two primary meanings you can use it for, and I bet you wouldn’t have guessed one of them.

The more common meaning you’re probably more familiar with is as a casual expression to refer to random or miscellaneous things, and usually when you can’t remember specific details about something.

The soup has beef, barley, carrots, and whatnot. (This shows that the soup has a bunch of other ingredients, but they can’t recall all of them.)

The other usage for the word whatnot refers to a type of freestanding, open-shelving unit used for displaying random trinkets and collectibles. I know, weird, right?

Whatnot vs. What Not

“Whatnot” is a single word that can sometimes be hyphenated, but it’s never spelled as two separate words, like “what not.” Using the two-word version would be incorrect in any context.

What Is the Formal Version of Whatnot?

You might spot “whatnot” in more formal writing or conversation, but it’s almost always in the form of other alternative expressions that convey the same meaning as “whatnot.”

  • Et cetera
  • And so on
  • And so forth
  • And what have you

Here, they are in a sentence. You can use the word “whatnot” in place of any of these.

  • I made you some soup, sandwiches, et cetera.
  • I need to clean the house, mop the floors, do the laundry, and so on.
  • I don’t believe in serious relations and marriage and so forth.
  • My grandmother used to make bread, cookies, cakes, and what have you.

What Is the Plural of Whatnot?

The plural form to use for “whatnot” is simply “whatnots.” This plural form should only be used when referring to more than one piece of open shelving that display trinkets because it doesn’t really apply to the other usage. With that being said, the plural form isn’t even required in any form.

Synonyms for Whatnot

  • Et cetera
  • And so on
  • And so forth
  • Miscellaneous items
  • Odds and ends
  • Various things
  • And what have you

Whatnot Examples in a Sentence

Whatnot or What Not Usage Meaning 1
  • Our gran has beautiful whatnot in her living room, and she fills it with collectibles and trinkets she finds at yard sales.
  • My mom and I spent the whole day shopping for clothes, shoes, accessories, and whatnot.
  • Dan was always tinkering with gadgets, gizmos, and whatnot in his workshop.
  • Do you need anything at the store? I’ll be heading out soon to pick up some groceries, cleaning supplies, and whatnot.
  • My husband’s desk is cluttered with papers, pens, and whatnot, so it’s impossible to find anything.

Spelling and Grammar and Whatnot

I hope my quick little guide helped explain what “whatnot” means in an easy-to-understand way. I love quirky words like this, especially when they have multiple usages. Find a way to use “whatnot” in your next conversation!