From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
This article is about the item of furniture. For the Muppet Show characters, see Whatnot (Muppet).

A what-not is a piece of furniture derived from the French étagère, which was exceedingly popular in England in the first three-quarters of the 19th century. It usually consists of slender uprights or pillars, supporting a series of shelves for holding china, ornaments, trifles, or what not, hence the allusive name. In its English form, although a convenient piece of drawing room furniture, it was rarely beautiful. The early mahogany examples are, however, sometimes graceful in their simplicity.

What-not is an English word (UK) which is used as a fill-in for a forgotten or unknown word (most commonly an item). It can also be used for a collection of miscellaneous items.

What-not is also an English (USA) term used to incorporate any other details not mentioned. This term is used much like et cetera to supplement details.

Popular culture[edit]

In By the Shores of Silver Lake by Laura Ingalls Wilder, Mrs Boast shows the Ingalls family how to make a "whatnot". Pa Ingalls built five shelves, which were set into a corner and the girls decorated it with scalloped and folded pasteboard curtains. Once it was finished, the whole thing, paper and all, was painted brown to look like a solid piece of furniture.[1]

A "what not shelf" has turned into tchotcke. In other words, a frivilous collection of items that may not have any meaning to the viewer. The collector, on the other hand, feels compelled to collect.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Wilder, Laura Ingalls (first published 1939, reprinted 1979). By The Shores of Silver Lake. Harper Trophy. pp. 208–211. ISBN 978-0-06-440005-3.  Check date values in: |date= (help)