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

Synonyms for woe

Antonyms for woe

1. joy.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for woe

Contemporary Examples of woe

Historical Examples of woe

  • Did she not break into lamentation and woe that a brother should so demean himself?

    The White Company

    Arthur Conan Doyle

  • We could not miss the way, our driver said, and woe betide us if we did!

    The Roof of France

    Matilda Betham-Edwards

  • Woe to him who is not the keeper of his own conscience—the supporter of his own resolution!

  • A month will decide the one, perhaps: But what a duration of woe will the other be!

    Clarissa, Volume 2 (of 9)

    Samuel Richardson

  • Or was it not in that hour—that solemn commune—soothed from its woe?

    Night and Morning, Complete

    Edward Bulwer-Lytton

British Dictionary definitions for woe



literary intense grief or misery
(often plural) affliction or misfortune
woe betide someone misfortune will befall someonewoe betide you if you arrive late


Also: woe is me archaic an exclamation of sorrow or distress

Word Origin for woe

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

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