• synonyms


or wo·ful

[woh-fuh l]
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  1. full of woe; wretched; unhappy: a woeful situation.
  2. affected with, characterized by, or indicating woe: woeful melodies.
  3. of wretched quality; sorry; poor: a woeful collection of paintings.
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Origin of woeful

Middle English word dating back to 1250–1300; see origin at woe, -ful
Related formswoe·ful·ly, adverbwoe·ful·ness, nounun·woe·ful, adjectiveun·woe·ful·ly, adverbun·woe·ful·ness, noun


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3. unpromising, unlikely, dreadful, awful.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for woful

Historical Examples

  • The beginning and root of this woful calamity was a light look.

    A Literary History of the English People

    Jean Jules Jusserand

  • And there was the visit to that woful church, damp, rotten, ruinous.

    Two Suffolk Friends

    Francis Hindes Groome

  • Even in this woful climax, Theodora noted the gurgle of the child's sobs.

    Teddy: Her Book

    Anna Chapin Ray

  • Oh, sir, it was a woful thing to be haunted by this phantom apparition.

    A Stable for Nightmares

    J. Sheridan Le Fanu

  • Wan from the wild and woful West—Sleep, little babe, sleep on!

British Dictionary definitions for woful


  1. expressing or characterized by sorrow
  2. bringing or causing woe
  3. pitiful; miserablea woeful standard of work
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Derived Formswoefully, adverbwoefulness, noun
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 woful



c.1300, "afflicted with sorrow," from woe + -ful. Weakened sense of "very bad" recorded by 1610s. Related: Woefully; woefulness.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper