Green’s Dictionary of Slang

give v.3

[Yid. vi geht’s? what gives?]

(orig. US) to happen; usu. in phrs. below.

[UK]P. Bowman Beach Red 79: Why in hell haven’t you been keeping me informed on what gives?
[US]Kerouac letter 10 July in Charters I (1995) 160: I don’t know what gives in California.
[US]B. Schulberg On the Waterfront (1964) 239: I gotta [...] sit down to find out what gives with me.
[US]E. De Roo Big Rumble 120: If something gives we do the best we can with it.
[US] in T.I. Rubin Sweet Daddy 79: I mean to find out what gives.
[US]J. Sayles Union Dues (1978) 281: Paris [...] searching out the eyes of Schenk and Remington and Joel Pinkstaff as if to say what gives with you turkeys.

In phrases

what gives?

1. (also what goes? what makes?) a general greeting.

[US]J.H. O’Hara Pal Joey 133: What gives, I asked her.
[Aus]D. Stivens Scholarly Mouse and other Tales 45: ‘What gives?’ he cried happily. ‘Lead me to a feed — I always work up an appetite in space.’.
[US]E. De Roo Big Rumble 33: ‘What gives?’ the little guy mumbled, looking down over the bunk.
[US]J.D. Macdonald Slam the Big Door (1961) 82: ‘What makes?’ he asked.
[UK](con. 1930s) D. Wells Night People 66: What goes?
[UK]Indep. Rev. 12 Oct. 3: ‘Adrian!’ I cried. ‘What gives?’.
[US]G.V. Higgins At End of Day (2001) 87: So I go in [...] and say to him, ‘What’s goin’ on?’ You know? ‘What gives?’.

2. (also what’s giving? what goes?) as a query, what is going on? what is happening? thus what gives with —? how is —? what is going on with —?

[UK]J. Masefield Everlasting Mercy 46: I hurled the bench into the settle, / I banged the table on the kettle [...] And as I ran I heard ’em call, / ‘Now damn to hell, what’s gone with Saul?’.
[US]S. Lewis Kingsblood Royal (2001) 234: After ten – what gives?
[UK]G. Kersh Fowlers End (2001) 260: So what’s giving miv Daniels Copper? So what are they digging for?
[Aus]S. Gore Holy Smoke 30: When he hears all this corroboree going on [...] he says to some bloke who’s come outside for a couple of drags at a smoke, ‘What gives – the old man come up on the lottery or something?’.
[US]L.K. Truscott IV Dress Gray (1979) 390: First you’re being watched, now there’s bugs in the phones. What gives?
[US]LaBarge & Holt Sweetwater Gunslinger 201 (1990) 209: Hey man. You look like a ghost. What gives?
[US]R. Price Clockers 502: I mean, what gives here.