What - wat - watt - wot

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What and wat form one of the sets of homophones listed by the then Poet Laureate Robert Bridges.
(For more, see Bridges homophones). AWE has a category listing our articles on each of these.. In addition, there are homophones watt and wot. (They are homophones often confused by schoolchildren living in England, especially in the south, who speak English as their native language. See W - Wh for an explanation of why they make this error.)

  • What is a homophone with wat, wot and watt for many accents of English, notably those of southern England; but other speakers regard them as beginning with distinctly different phonemes, those represented in IPA as /w/ and /ʍ/ respectively. See W - Wh for more.
  • Both wat and wot are variant spellings of the present tense of the archaic verb 'to wit'
  • Wat can also be a proper noun:
    • a Buddhist temple or monastery complex in South-East Asia, for example the Cambodian temple complex Angkor Wat.
    • a conventional abbreviation for the forename Walter. Wat Tyler was a leader of the Peasants' Revolt of 1381, when he was mortally wounded while attempting discussion with Richard II, and then dragged to be executed.
  • wot can also be
    • a representation in writing of a cockney pronunciation of 'what', as used by Dickens for such characters as Sam Weller, in Pickwick Papers; and a chad (the graffito of a face appearing behind, with its nose and two hands in front of a wall, commonly scribbled during the Second World War) with a slogan "Wot, no [sugar, eggs, or any other shortage]?" US forces adopted this graffito during the Second World War with the slogan 'Kilroy was here', a humorous reference to the supposed ubiquity of a folk-myth hero. The chad (this drawing) is known to some as the 'Wot no luck' sign (and to Americans as the 'Kilroy was here' sign.)
  • Watt may be a surname, famously that of James Watt (1736-1819), the inventor who, by developing the condenser, greatly improved the efficiency and power of steam engines. By adapting their output to rotary movement, he allowed their later application to mills and to steam engines, making him one of the most important figures in the Industrial Revolution. As a mark of honour, his name is used
    • as a common noun for the unit of power in the SI system of measurement, the watt. The watt is a unit of power (symbol: W), defined as "equal to one joule per second".
    • James Watt also gave his name to the Watt Institution in Edinburgh (founded in 1824), which amalgamated with the School of Arts of Edinburgh (founded three years earlier), and in 1885 changed its name to Heriot-Watt College, and from 1966 has been Heriot-Watt University.
      • The surname may be used in a plural form, Watts, for example by the eighteenth century hymn-writer and theologian Isaac Watts (1674–1748). (Among his best-known hymns are 'Joy to the world', 'Jesus shall reign where’er the sun', 'O God, Our Help in Ages Past', and 'When I survey the wondrous cross'.) It is important for students to be clear which spelling is used by a person about whom they may be writing.
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