[ woh, hwoh ]
/ woʊ, ʰwoʊ /
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(used to command an animal, especially a horse, to stop.)
(used to tell a person to stop, wait, or slow down): Whoa, you need to sit over there and calm yourself.
(an exclamation of surprise, wonder, pleasure, etc.): Whoa, that's a great photo!
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Fill in the blank: I can’t figure out _____ gave me this gift.
Sometimes woah .

Origin of whoa

First recorded in 1460–80; dialectal variant of ho2
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


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!

How to use whoa in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for whoa

/ (wəʊ) /

a command used esp to horses to stop or slow down

Word Origin for whoa

C19: variant of ho 1
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