\ 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

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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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 governor and fellow Democrats noted the persistent budget woes that Kansas experienced after Republican legislators jumped into cutting income taxes in 2012 and 2013 at the urging of then-GOP Gov. Sam Brownback. John Hanna, The Seattle Times, "Kansas’ new Democratic governor vetoes GOP tax relief bill," 25 Mar. 2019 Flash woes are good news for consumers But what hurt Intel can benefit consumers. Mark Hachman, PCWorld, "Intel addresses processor shortages, CEO hunt after reporting disappointing fourth-quarter results," 24 Jan. 2019 In China, industrial production, weighed down by woes in the car and property markets, slowed in November to its slackest point since early 2016, official data showed. Josh Zumbrun, WSJ, "Slower Overseas Growth Fans Worries on U.S. Expansion," 14 Dec. 2018 Amourath’s woes are hardly unique within the context of fame. Patricia Hernandez, The Verge, "For women on Twitch, disclosing their relationship status is a minefield," 8 Aug. 2018 Defense Secretary James Mattis made some frank remarks about the Pentagon's budget woes last month. Joe Pappalardo, Popular Mechanics, "Why the Pentagon Doesn't Know How Much Anything Costs," 4 June 2018 The project was expected to be completed by the end of 2017, but was delayed due to utilities relocation, excavation issues, state budget woes, weather and other problems, village officials said. Michelle Mullins, Daily Southtown, "Two new restaurants, retail plaza planned on Bell Road in Homer Glen," 16 Mar. 2018 Caught amidst the state’s budget woes and political realities, West Virginians aren’t left with much of a choice. Sarah Jones, The New Republic, "West Virginia's teachers ended their historic walkout in a deal with the state's Republican governor. But at what cost?," 7 Mar. 2018 State deductions - clawbacks - from ECOT funding of about $4 million per month contributed to budget woes that led the school to be shut down two weeks ago. Patrick O'donnell, cleveland.com, "ECOT closure doesn't block recovery of $80 million, state superintendent says: Ohio has "other options"," 30 Jan. 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 How to pronounce woe (audio) \

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

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