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“Wat” is a variant of the English word “what” that is often used to express confusion or disgust, much like its better known acronym “WTF,” short for “what the fuck.” Although the term “wat” is most frequently used as an interjection without a question mark, it is sometimes used to caption reaction face images or peculiar images that would evoke similar responses.
According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the interrogative word “what” stems from the Old English “Hwæt”, an exclamation that roughly translates to “so.” The term is also used in the opening line of Old English epic poem Beowolf: "Hwæt! We Gardena " || “in gear-dagum.” (“So! The Spear-Danes in days gone by.”)
One of the first relevant Urban Dictionary definitions was submitted by user Age on April 21st, 2003:
A variation of the word “what”. The word what is purposely misspelt to show dyslexia and stupidity. It can also be used as a lazy form of the word “what.”
Accordin to Encyclopedia Dramatica, colloquial use of the term “wat” originated from the Something Awful forums, specifically in the FYAD (F**k You and Die) sub-community. However, this notion has not been verified.
Over a dozen entries defining the term “wat” were submitted throughout the decade, leading up to the currently top voted definition of the word, which was was submitted on September 4th, 2008 by user watwat.
The only proper response to something that makes absolutely no sense.
Encyclopedia Dramatica defines the word as a response to the most confusing of statements or attempts at non-sequitur humor, as well as overly lengthy explanations in comments or posts similar to the usage of tl;dr.
On 4chan, “wat” is most commonly used as a response to image posts containing bizarre or incoherent media, but it has been also incorporated into a variety of recurring discussion topics, such as You Wat You Lose threads, Wat Do threads and wat-inducing greentext stories among others.
In Rage Comic
On Reddit, a rage comic character often referred to as “wat” is used to express a confused or suspicious reaction. It is often found in the f7u12 subreddit, and is commonly used in discussion threads as a comment face.
In addition, there are alternately spelled iterations of the term:
- What: The proper form of “what”; denotes confusion, surprise, excitement or rage.
- WHAT: Although similar in meaning, the capitalization adds more urgency or emphasis.
- Wait, what: – Denotes confusion; used when the thread or conversation shifts topic too quickly.
- Wat: Used when something is so absurd or incoherent that the typist cannot spell properly.
- Wat ¯\(°_o)/¯: Same as “wat,” but with an extra emphasis placed by the shrugging emoticon.
- Lolwut: A reference to an image macro with the same name; denotes confusion at something ridiculous.
- Wut: Denotes confusion and sluggish response.