\ 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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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

But if the economic woe continues, voters’ faith in Mr Trump is anything but assured. The Economist, "Parts of America may already be facing recession," 31 Aug. 2019 Adding to the economic woes, the country's despotic leader, Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, has been conspicuously absent since mid-July, appearing just three times on state media, which once reported almost daily on the president's activities. CNN, "A hermit nation ruled by an egomaniac: Is Turkmenistan on the brink of collapse?," 10 Aug. 2019 The upheaval has raised fears that a government in chaos will have trouble negotiating for more federal funding for recovery from Hurricane Maria and coping with the island’s grave economic woes. DÁnica Coto, chicagotribune.com, "A fired up Puerto Rico braces for clashes over the island’s next leader," 31 July 2019 Puerto Rico also has many economic woes not tied directly to the hurricane. Zeeshan Aleem, Vox, "Puerto Rico’s week of massive protests, explained," 20 July 2019 Former prime minister Tspiras had attempted in 2015 to alleviate Greece’s economic woes by taking on the EU and Greece’s other international creditors. Eshe Nelson, Quartz, "Out with the new, in with the old: Greeks hand power back to the conservatives," 8 July 2019 Italy’s economic woes accentuated the socialist appeal. Joseph Loconte, National Review, "Mussolini and the End of Liberal Democracy," 25 June 2019 Reportedly accompanying these economic woes are an uptick in violence and political unrest that’s now hard to ignore. Jessica Eise, Quartz Africa, "How foreign aid helped and hurt one of the world’s poorest countries," 21 June 2019 Reportedly accompanying these economic woes are an uptick in violence and political unrest that’s now hard to ignore. Jessica Eise, The Conversation, "How an aid gusher helped and hurt Liberia," 14 June 2019

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

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).


readily or continually undergoing change

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