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[woh] /woʊ/
grievous distress, affliction, or trouble:
His woe was almost beyond description.
an affliction:
She suffered a fall, among her other woes.
an exclamation of grief, distress, or lamentation.
Origin of woe
before 900; Middle English wo (interjection and noun), Old English (interjection) (cf. wellaway); cognate with Dutch wee, German Weh, Old Norse vei, Latin vae
1. anguish, tribulation, trial, wretchedness, melancholy. See sorrow.
1. joy. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for woe
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • woe to the hearts that heard, unmoved,The mother's anguish'd shriek!

    The Liberty Minstrel George W. Clark
  • Carlotta was Queen, then;—there have been wars and death and woe enough since then!

    The Royal Pawn of Venice Mrs. Lawrence Turnbull
  • And his mouth was drawn down into Jeremiah lines of woe that are indescribable.

    A Circuit Rider's Wife Corra Harris
  • I could pray no prayers but for thee; I could hearken to no other tales of woe.

    The Royal Pawn of Venice Mrs. Lawrence Turnbull
  • But woe to him who doesn't know how to wear his mask, be he king or Pope!

    Three Plays Luigi Pirandello
British Dictionary definitions for woe


(literary) intense grief or misery
(often pl) affliction or misfortune
woe betide someone, misfortune will befall someone: woe betide you if you arrive late
(archaic) Also woe is me. an exclamation of sorrow or distress
Word Origin
Old English wā, wǣ; related to Old Saxon, Old High German wē, Old Norse vei, Gothic wai, Latin vae, Sanskrit uvē; see wail
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 woe

Old English wa, a common exclamation of lament in many languages (cf. Latin , Greek oa, German weh, Lettish wai, Old Irish fe, Welsh gwae, Armenian vay). The noun is attested from late 12c., from the interjection.

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


Related Terms

tale of woe

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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