\ ˈwō How to pronounce woe (audio) \

Definition of woe

 (Entry 1 of 2)

used to express grief, regret, or distress



Definition of woe (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : a condition of deep suffering from misfortune, affliction, or grief
2 : ruinous trouble : calamity, affliction economic woes

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Synonyms for woe

Synonyms: Interjection

Synonyms: Noun

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sorrow, grief, anguish, woe, regret mean distress of mind. sorrow implies a sense of loss or a sense of guilt and remorse. a family united in sorrow upon the patriarch's death grief implies poignant sorrow for an immediate cause. the inexpressible grief of the bereaved parents anguish suggests torturing grief or dread. the anguish felt by the parents of the kidnapped child woe is deep or inconsolable grief or misery. cries of woe echoed throughout the bombed city regret implies pain caused by deep disappointment, fruitless longing, or unavailing remorse. nagging regret for missed opportunities

Examples of woe in a Sentence

Interjection ah, woe, with the death of the last of my siblings I am alone in this world! Noun The city's traffic woes are well-known. a tale of misery and woe
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun This web of woe has distracted many Democrats from what is happening within the Republican Party. Walter Shapiro, The New Republic, "The GOP Is Imploding in Spectacular Fashion," 22 Feb. 2021 But if history is littered with tales of woe, The Great is not one of them. Anne Cohen, refinery29.com, "Elle Fanning Was Born To Be An Outrageous, Messy Queen & The Great Is Proof," 5 Jan. 2021 That quickly spread to invective for Taylor, followed by woe-is-us and general malaise. Paul Daugherty, USA TODAY, "Opinion: The Cincinnati Bengals owe quarterback Joe Burrow better than this," 23 Nov. 2020 Instead, the moss’s telltale sign of woe is its glum, grayish hue, a waxen appearance that comes from ferns and algae that have crept over it. Sabrina Imbler, Smithsonian Magazine, "Will the Slender-Yoke Moss Be Saved?," 14 Dec. 2020 But Morrison goes bluesy, soulful, and folky — the three modes of pop-music woe, depth, and empathy, precise measurements of the consciousness and voices silenced by COVID madness. Armond White, National Review, "Van Morrison Sings for the Voiceless," 2 Dec. 2020 Like many other millennials, Holmes is grappling with just the latest financial woe to bedevil his generation. Paul Davidson, USA TODAY, "As COVID-19 rages, millennials make up growing share of 'sandwich generation,' caring for kids and parents," 18 Nov. 2020 That means political promises have a shorter-than-ever shelf life, and woe to the party that fails to come through. Mark Z. Barabak Staff Writer, Los Angeles Times, "News Analysis: It’s not just Trump. This whole century has been politically stormy," 15 Nov. 2020 Joey Reed concurred that his son's health remains their primary woe. Hollie Mckay, Fox News, "Father of jailed US Marine in Russia details alleged political motivations behind son’s ‘unjust’ treatment," 27 Oct. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'woe.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of woe


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined above


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for woe


Middle English wa, wo, from Old English ; akin to Old Norse vei, interjection, woe, Latin vae

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Time Traveler for woe

Time Traveler

The first known use of woe was before the 12th century

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Cite this Entry

“Woe.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/woe. Accessed 12 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for woe



English Language Learners Definition of woe

: a feeling of great pain or sadness
: problems or troubles


\ ˈwō How to pronounce woe (audio) \

Kids Definition of woe

1 : great sorrow, grief, or misfortune : trouble
2 : something that causes a problem

More from Merriam-Webster on woe

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for woe

Nglish: Translation of woe for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of woe for Arabic Speakers

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