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 woes

Contemporary Examples of woes

Historical Examples of woes

  • Oh, foolish woman, if you do, you only exchange your woes for worse ones.

    A Woman Tenderfoot

    Grace Gallatin Seton-Thompson

  • She may be surrounded with variety of woes, but none of them shall approach her.


    William Godwin

  • He leads her straight into the woes: will she follow, will she hold back?

    The Prodigal Returns

    Lilian Staveley

  • We were not then prepared for peace, that sovereign balm for a nation's woes.

  • I can not hear the recital of their woes without the deepest sympathy.

British Dictionary definitions for woes



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 woes



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