\ 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

Synonyms: Noun

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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

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
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Their trunk was full of water and Cheetos; the screen perched on White’s lap, a real-time look at the city’s 911 log, was a litany of woe: suicide, fight in progress, child neglect, wanted person, missing person. Washington Post, 9 Oct. 2021 All this woe is reinforced by a 2021 PwC Employee Financial Wellness Survey. Etta Money, Forbes, 2 Sep. 2021 The attack on Thursday outside Kabul airport also killed at least 170 Afghans, piling on further woe as countless people still seek to flee a country in the grips of Taliban militants. Washington Post, 29 Aug. 2021 The emails to the Supples highlight yet again how the COVID-19 pandemic has been Christmas for con artists looking to cash in on all-too-common tales of woe and hardship. Los Angeles Times, 17 Aug. 2021 Being the victim of violent crime can change a life and bring untold long-term woe, real physical and psychological repercussions. Peggy Noonan, WSJ, 24 June 2021 Has there e’er been a tale with more woe than the tale of some guy named Greg from the shore of Jersey? Devon Ivie, Vulture, 9 Aug. 2021 For every story offering comfort to decision-makers considering making remote work more common, there is a story of woe that should give them pause. Nate Bennett, Forbes, 28 June 2021 And woe to the organization staging a musical or hanging an art exhibition or scheduling an orchestra that is not considering inventive ways to hook new as well as returning customers. Washington Post, 3 June 2021

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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Time Traveler for woe

Time Traveler

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

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Cite this Entry

“Woe.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/woe. Accessed 27 Oct. 2021.

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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

More from Merriam-Webster on woe

Nglish: Translation of woe for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of woe for Arabic Speakers


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