What-gives meaning

(colloquial) What is wrong? Why is this happening?

Not even thirty minutes after leaving the shower, I start getting itches on my head. What gives?

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What gives is defined as something you ask when you aren't sure why someone is doing something or acting a certain way.

An example of when to say "what gives" is when your friend promised you the extra concert ticket but then decided at the last minute to give it to a different friend for no reason.

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(colloquial, possibly dated) What is happening? What is going on?

What gives with you and Martha?

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(colloquial) How are you?
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Origin of what-gives

  • First attested in 1940. in John O'Hara's 1940 novel Pal Joey. The term is considered by the American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms, Second Edition (2013) and several other references to be a calque of German was gibt's? and/or a Yiddish equivalent. Brian Joseph considers this unlikely, however, and speculates that despite its extremely late attestation, it and the German was gibt's may "allow[] for a reconstruction of a Proto-West-Germanic existential use of 'give', which survives marginally into present usage."
    From Wiktionary