[ woh, hwoh ]


  1. (used to command an animal, especially a horse, to stop.)
  2. (used to tell a person to stop, wait, or slow down):

    Whoa, you need to sit over there and calm yourself.

  3. (an exclamation of surprise, wonder, pleasure, etc.):

    Whoa, that's a great photo!


/ wəʊ /


  1. a command used esp to horses to stop or slow down
“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 History and Origins

Origin of whoa1

First recorded in 1460–80; dialectal variant of ho 2
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Word History and Origins

Origin of whoa1

C19: variant of ho 1
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Example Sentences

One can only assume the hangover cries: “whoa, who did I vote for last night?”

She then warns Russia to leave Ukraine alone, to which “Putin” replies, "Whoa, hey Capt. Buzzkill!"

I do remember uttering Whoa, channeling my inner Keanu Reeves.

But when he comes across ScarJo, who says, “Whoa, whoa, whoa: no sex before monogamy”—which is my role—he has to pay the toll.

It came out right as I was about to graduate and I think people were like, “Whoa, maybe she was pretty!”

"Whoa, Bob," he said soothingly, and one of them whinnied back in response as if glad to know that a human being was near.

With one foot on the brake, he was whoa-hawing his four-horse team and talking like a pirate.

"Whoa, boy," he soothed, patting the animal gently on the neck.

"Whoa," he cried excitedly, and Speed came to a stop and sat down on the ice.

But it would not be well for even Geronimo to give Whoa the lie.


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More About Whoa

What does whoa mean?

Whoa is used to express that something is impressive, surprising, or astounding, as in Whoa! Look at that sunset! In this sense, it’s very similar to wow.

Whoa is also used as a command to stop. This command is especially associated with its use to get a horse to stop or slow down.

Whoa is an interjection, meaning it’s typically used by itself outside of a sentence.

Some people spell it woah.

Example: When I told Keanu that the horse was running right at him, he just stood there and said, “Whoa.”

Where does whoa come from?

The first records of the word whoa are in reference to the command to stop, especially when given to a horse. It’s thought to be a variant of the word ho, which was an earlier way of commanding a horse to stop (and a good way to remember that it’s spelled whoa).

It’s still used as a command to stop for horses and people, as in Whoa there, slow down or OK, whoa, let’s not celebrate until all the votes are in. 

The first records of the use of whoa as an interjection when impressed or surprised come from the late 1800s. This is how it’s most often used today. People say whoa when they see or hear something impressive, as in Whoa, that looks delicious! or Whoa, lightning just hit the tree! Whoa isn’t always exclaimed. Sometimes, it’s said softly to express amazement. This is especially the case when whoa is used as a one-word response. For example, if someone tells you something really surprising, you might just say, “Whoa.”

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What are some synonyms for whoa?

What are some words that share a root or word element with whoa

What are some words that often get used in discussing whoa?

How is whoa used in real life?

Whoa is very informal. It’s most often used to show that you’re impressed.



Try using whoa!

Is whoa used correctly in this sentence? 

Whoa, that roller-coaster ride was intense!