\ 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

There are numerous drugs to treat digestive woes caused by heartburn or stomach ulcers. Serena Gordon, chicagotribune.com, "Heartburn drugs might bring allergy woes," 5 Aug. 2019 Trump, of course, claims the White House has been flooded with calls from people thanking him for highlighting Baltimore's woes. Brian Stelter, CNN, "Baltimore Sun takes on Trump's attacks with searing columns, news and fact-checks," 3 Aug. 2019 There is no doubt the trade war is playing some role in this, although analysts point out that much of China’s economic woes come from domestic factors, such as a burgeoning debt problem. Washington Post, "China warns of retaliatory measures after Trump threatens new tariffs," 2 Aug. 2019 There is no doubt the trade war is playing some role in this, although analysts point out that much of China's economic woes come from domestic factors, such as a burgeoning debt problem. Anna Fifield, Anchorage Daily News, "China warns of retaliatory measures after Trump threatens new tariffs," 2 Aug. 2019 Aside from alleviating transportation woes, the hyperloop will also be a boon for the economy. Ananya Bhattacharya, Quartz India, "India’s hyperloop plans were all talk—until now," 1 Aug. 2019 For now, two leading ideas are battling it out within the scientific community: Were dinosaurs victims of interplanetary violence, or more Earthly woes? Victoria Jaggard, National Geographic, "Why did the dinosaurs go extinct?," 31 July 2019 Saxon / Associated Press) Will Jimmy Kimmel’s new LAX greeting take the edge off the airport’s construction woes? Los Angeles Times, "Jimmy Kimmel’s new airport greeting: ‘Welcome to LAX. We apologize for the construction’," 31 July 2019 Your doctor can check your breathing to see if there are signs of fluid in your lungs, which could indicate that your symptoms extend beyond normal pregnancy woes, the AHA says. Patia Braithwaite, SELF, "11 Health Conditions You Should Know About If You’re Black and Pregnant," 30 July 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).


to shake or wave menacingly

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