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[hwoh, woh] /ʰwoʊ, woʊ/
stop! (used especially to horses).
Origin of whoa
First recorded in 1615-25; dialectal variant of ho2 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for whoa
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • When we got where the critter's legs touched bottom, Becky remarks: "whoa!"

    Cape Cod Stories Joseph C. Lincoln
  • Colonel Briggs, as his men called him, suddenly shouted “whoa!”

    A Waif of the Mountains Edward S. Ellis
  • whoa, Pardner,” sang out Rhodes, back of them as he slid out of the saddle.

    The Treasure Trail Marah Ellis Ryan
  • "whoa, boy," he soothed, patting the animal gently on the neck.

    The Pony Rider Boys in Texas

    Frank Gee Patchin
  • But just as we had got under it, Addison said, "whoa," and old Sol stopped short.

    When Life Was Young C. A. Stephens
British Dictionary definitions for whoa


a command used esp to horses to stop or slow down
Word Origin
C19: variant of ho1
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for whoa

1620s, a cry to call attention from a distance, a variant of who. As a command to stop a horse, it is attested from 1843, a variant of ho. As an expression of delight or surprise (1980s) it has gradually superseded wow, which was very popular 1960s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for whoa



  1. An exclamation of surprise and delight; wow •This interjection appears to be replacing the very popular wow of the 1960s: Unsolicited confession: woah! (1980s+)
  2. (also whoa there or whoa Nelly) An exhortation to wait, go slow, not be hasty: Whoa, Nelly. Two aliens are heading this way (1940s+)

[fr whoa! ''Stop, horse!'' attested fr the 1840s]

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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