Who Knows?: Definition, Meaning, and Origin

Last Updated on
September 25, 2023

The expression "who knows?" is commonly used to convey uncertainty or a lack of definitive knowledge about something. It's a rhetorical question that suggests that the answer is unknown or unknowable, often highlighting the unpredictable nature of life or the limits of one's understanding.

In short:

"Who knows?" is an idiom commonly used to express uncertainty or a lack of knowledge about something.

What Does "Who Knows?" Mean?

The phrase "Who knows?" is a rhetorical question that people use when they don't have an answer to a particular question or when the outcome is uncertain. It reflects an acknowledgment of the limitations of one's knowledge or the unpredictable nuances of a situation.

Let's dive into its core meanings and usage:

  • "Who knows?" signifies uncertainty.
  • It can be used to avoid giving a direct answer.
  • Often, it emphasizes that no one really knows the answer.

Where Does "Who Knows?" Come From?

Tracing the exact origin of many idioms, including "Who knows?" can be challenging. However, the idiom's concept of acknowledging the limit of human knowledge has been around for centuries.

"Who can find out what is in the deep parts of the sea? Who can find out what is in the high parts of the sky?" – An old proverb, highlighting the human limitation in understanding.

10 Examples of "Who Knows?" in Sentences

Here's how you might see "who knows?" utilized in various sentences:

  • She asked if it would rain tomorrow, and I replied, "Who knows?"
  • "Who knows?" Maybe one day, we'll meet again.
  • I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the meeting has been canceled; who knows when we can reschedule it?
  • When will the pandemic end? Honestly, "who knows?"
  • I wonder if they'll ever fix this road. "Who knows?" right?
  • I tried all sorts of remedies to fix the persisting issues with my computer, but to no avail; who knows what the real problem is?
  • I'm sorry to hear that you've been feeling this way; who knows what tomorrow might bring? Maybe it will be a better day.
  • I will do my best to secure a promotion this year, but who knows how the industry will fare in the coming months."
  • Are they going to launch the new product next month? "Who knows?"
  • Let's put a pin on that topic for now; who knows, we might find a solution with a fresh perspective later.

Examples of "Who Knows?" in Pop Culture

"Who knows?" has been referenced and used in various aspects of pop culture:

  • The song "Who Knows" by Jimi Hendrix.
  • In the movie "Casablanca," when asked about his plans, Rick famously replies, "Who knows?"
  • A game show in the 1980s was titled "Who Knows?"

Synonyms: Other/Different Ways to Say "Who Knows?"

There are numerous ways to express the idea of "who knows?"

Here's a list of alternatives:

  • Who can say?
  • Anyone's guess
  • Your guess is as good as mine

10 Frequently Asked Questions About "Who Knows?"

  • What does the idiom "who knows?" mean?

It's a rhetorical question used to express uncertainty or a lack of knowledge about something.

  • Where did the idiom "who knows?" originate?

The exact origin is unclear, but the concept of acknowledging the limit of human knowledge has been around for centuries.

  • Can "who knows?" be used in formal writing?

While it's primarily a conversational idiom, it can be used in formal writing for effect or to emphasize uncertainty.

  • Are there songs titled "Who Knows?"

Yes, for example, there's a song by Jimi Hendrix titled "Who Knows.

  • How does "who knows?" differ from "who can tell?"?

They're very similar, but "who can tell?" has a slightly more speculative tone.

  • Is "Who knows?" used worldwide?

While the English idiom "Who knows?" is understood globally, many languages have their own equivalent expressions.

  • Can the idiom be used to avoid answering?

Yes, sometimes people use it to diplomatically avoid answering a difficult question.

  • Is "Who knows?" considered rude?

It depends on the context. In some situations, it might be perceived as dismissive, while in others, it's just an acknowledgment of uncertainty.

  • Are there any books titled "Who Knows?"?

Yes, various books have been published with this title, spanning different genres and topics.

  • How can I use the idiom in a sentence?

You can use it as a standalone reply, or integrate it into a sentence like, "Who knows? Maybe one day, we'll find out."

Final Thoughts About "Who Knows?"

"Who knows?" is useful when you want to highlight the uncertainty or unpredictability of a situation. Whether discussing a mysterious occurrence, pondering over life's big questions, or admitting your lack of knowledge in a casual conversation, it can be a versatile phrase to employ.

Here's a quick wrap-up:

  • It's a quick way to express uncertainty or the limits of our knowledge.
  • While mostly conversational, it has made its mark in literature, music, and film.
  • Understanding its origins and variations helps in appreciating its versatility and enduring popularity.

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