British English: What Does "Wotcher" Mean?

I’ve seen this word used in the Harry Potter books from time to time. It seems to be used as a greeting, or at least an announcement of one’s presence.

For example, Tonks will notice Harry and say, “Wotcher, Harry, blah blah blah…”

What does it mean?

Translated into Canadian: “Howsitgoin, eh?”

Wotcher up to?

Or translated into L.A.-ian: 'Sup?


I’ve seen it spelt “whotcha” as in “what are you up to”

Never seen it spelt like that before. Normally it’s “whatcha”.

From a HP fan site:

And from this site:

Here in New England it’s “Hey!”

Or sometimes “Hey! Howyadoing.”

I’m not ‘ghetto’, but when you’re around it for so long you tend to pick up some of the patois. Sometimes it was: Hey, 'sup?

‘A greeting, shortened form of “what cheer!”’

That’s got to come from the Dick Van Dyke book of etymology.

‘What’cha up to’ is the far more plausible option.

Down here we (or rather I) just say ‘howdy’.

No, “what cheer” is quite correct. It’s been around a looong time.

Um, no. See my second cite above. The expression is at least 300 years old. There are written instances of it as far back as 1743.

It’s not some slang that came out in the past 20 years.

Agreed. I’m not sure why the term’s age means that it must be the ‘cheer’ version. Either is possible, but ‘what’cha up to’ sounds more natural because ‘cheer’ does not have a ‘cha’ sound.

(In case anyone is unaware, the final consonant of ‘what’ and the initial consonant of ‘you’ usually mix into a ‘ch’ sound in spoken Southern British English. I presume everyone understands that, but just in case, you know!)

Did I say it was?

The cites suggested so far don’t give any concrete evidence for anything other than it being a fairly old expression. Which doesn’t prove any etymology.

How about a cite that the expression “What are you up to?” was used 300 years ago? Sounds very unlikely to me - that’s would seem to be a modern expression, unlike “What cheer.” I can’t recall seeing “What are you up to,” or anything similar, in Defoe, Dickens, or any other pre-20th century author.

Sorry, but that doesn’t make sense. Just because something sounds old-fashioned to us doesn’t necessarily make it older than something which sounds normal.

No, I’ve read lots of Dickens and other pre-20th century literature. It’s not just that it sounds wrong, I can’t recall any instances.

If you have any, please provide them.

“Wotcha!” was invented by Lofty Holloway in Eastenders, circa 1985.

“Wotcha 'Shell!”

Well, that’s when I first heard it anyway.

I’m not sure how this is relevant at all, since the expression under discussion in the OP is “wotcher,” not “wha’cha.” If anything, it is an argument against a derivation of “wotcher” from an expression beginning with “what you.”