A Scottish friend asked a German friend yesterday evening whereabouts she came from. We then watched a film (‘V for Vendetta’) where a character used that word, too. “Why whereabouts?”, she wondered .
I hope this post can clarify things.
The word’s first known use as an adverb dates back to the 14th century (and the 18th century in terms of its use as a noun). It originates from the Middle English word whereaboutes (from wher aboute + -s, adverb suffix) and wher aboute (from where, wher + about/e).
Webster’s definition of whereabout/s:
My friend’s question “why whereabouts” was referring to (1) – why not just “where“?. I guess it’s a a little more informal and a way to ask more precisely for information. In the end of the day though, either is fine.