\ 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

Keep scrolling for more

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

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
See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Similar tales of woe flowed through neighborhood gossip channels and chat boards across Fairfield County. Ruth S. Barrett, The Atlantic, "Rich Parents Went All In on Lacrosse. And Squash. And Water Polo.," 17 Oct. 2020 Amanda is less frightened by their tale of woe than peevishly put out, her delusions of second-home grandeur rudely pierced by the presence of the people who actually live there. Leah Greenblatt, EW.com, "Rumaan Alam goes zingy-dystopian in fall fiction breakout Leave the World Behind: Review," 6 Oct. 2020 Along with stalling film production, shutting theaters and throwing release schedules into chaos, the coronavirus pandemic has brought still another woe to Hollywood: a rise in movie piracy. Richard Chess, Bloomberg.com, "Movie Piracy Is Rising With Studios Skipping Theater Releases," 6 Oct. 2020 Along with stalling film production, shutting theaters and throwing release schedules into chaos, the coronavirus pandemic has brought still another woe to Hollywood: a rise in movie piracy. Richard Chess, Fortune, "Movie piracy is on the rise as studios bypass theatrical releases," 6 Oct. 2020 In typical years, attendance in the Assembly Hall thins out after the US President and other powerful dignitaries depart -- woe to the foreign minister stuck speaking at 9pm on a Saturday night. Richard Roth, CNN, "What to expect at the UN General Assembly in the time of Covid-19," 20 Sep. 2020 And woe to the city planner who paints a rosy picture of a shining tomorrow but fails to deliver. Blair Kamin, chicagotribune.com, "Column: It’s crunch time for Lightfoot’s drive to uplift struggling parts of the South and West Sides. Will it work?," 26 Aug. 2020 Dylan exorcises his woe; Jeff doesn’t seem quite as conquering. Hannah Seidlitz, Longreads, "A Long, Lonely Time," 10 Aug. 2020 Soon after, other users began to reply with similar tales of woe. Courtney Linder, Popular Mechanics, "Why This Image Is Causing Android Phones to Crash," 4 June 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about woe

Time Traveler for woe

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Statistics for woe

Cite this Entry

“Woe.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/woe. Accessed 29 Oct. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

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

Keep scrolling for more

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

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).


Test Your Vocabulary

Here Be Dragons: A Creature Identification Quiz

  • monster werewolf photo
  • Which is a synonym of werewolf?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Add Diction

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!