\ ˈwō \

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

alack, alas, ay, wirra [Irish]

Synonyms: Noun

affliction, agony, anguish, distress, excruciation, hurt, misery, pain, rack, strait(s), torment, torture, travail, tribulation

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Choose the Right Synonym for woe


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


ah, woe, with the death of the last of my siblings I am alone in this world!


The city's traffic woes are well-known. a tale of misery and woe
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The company’s woes come at a time of intensifying concern over accounting and audit practices at U.K. companies following a number of high-profile collapses, such as that occurring at construction company Carillion PLC in January 2018. Nina Trentmann, WSJ, "Cafe Chain Patisserie, Now in Administration, Will Search For Buyer," 22 Jan. 2019 Below, how to tackle the upcoming season’s woes before the temperatures settle in for the long haul. Jenna Rennert, Vogue, "How to Transition Your Skin-Care Routine for Fall Like a Pro," 12 Aug. 2018 Each new acquisition comes with questions, from Brown’s health woes to Crabtree’s diminished production to the drunken-driving suspension and hamstring injury that marred Snead’s 2017 season. Childs Walker, baltimoresun.com, "Ravens' new wide receivers show early signs of promise during workouts," 1 June 2018 Will their potty training woes, the shots of him or her in the bath with a smiling heart over their privates, and the tantrums captured for laughs some day be a source of embarrassment and resentment? Michelle Ruiz, Vogue, "The One Question Parents Should Ask Themselves Before Posting Their Kids on Social Media," 14 Jan. 2019 Photo: Associated Press Apple’s woes in China, which have caused the company to cut its quarterly sales forecast for the first time in 15 years, may have come as a shock. Jacky Wong, WSJ, "Apple’s Crumble in China Will Be Hard to Turn Over," 3 Jan. 2019 However, power generation problems, electronics woes, and rapidly wearing out railgun barrels have been persistent issues. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "China’s Railgun Has Reportedly Gone to Sea," 31 Dec. 2018 Trump has a slew of legal woes, including lawsuits accusing him of violating the anti-bribery emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution by accepting payments from foreign governments at his hotels and other properties. Bernard Condon, The Seattle Times, "Lawsuit: Trump misled investors in money-losing company," 29 Oct. 2018 Turkish Cypriot protesters decrying economic hardship brought on by Turkey's currency woes, march through the northern part of ethnically split Cyprus' capital Nicosia on Thursday, Sept. 6, 2018. Menelaos Hadjicostis, Fox News, "Turkish Cypriots protest price hikes from Turkish lira woes," 6 Sep. 2018

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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Statistics for woe

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Time Traveler for woe

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

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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 \

Kids Definition of woe

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

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More from Merriam-Webster on woe

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with woe

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for woe

Spanish Central: Translation of woe

Nglish: Translation of woe for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of woe for Arabic Speakers

Comments on woe

What made you want to look up woe? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


excited commotion or publicity

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