Definition of woe in English:



  • 1Great sorrow or distress (often used hyperbolically)

    ‘the Everton tale of woe continued’
    • ‘This is a woe I suffer from like no other, and cannot wait to be rid of it forever.’
    • ‘A dancing cosmos and a waffle iron tells of a slight decrease in your woe.’
    • ‘Striker Colin Alcide will be out of action for up to six weeks piling on the injury woe for York City manager Neil Thompson.’
    • ‘Bogey woe on the final day cost North Yorkshire's king of swing Simon Dyson dear in the Dubai Desert Classic.’
    • ‘And to compound the woe, his father Thomas lost his battle with lung cancer.’
    • ‘Even the judiciary adds to the woe by convicting the women for soliciting.’
    • ‘And his Wentworth woe was the fourth time this year he had gone agonisingly close.’
    • ‘Only, and here comes the woe, dear reader, I did it all in the wrong order.’
    • ‘The midfielder is not exactly carrying a torch for his old manager but, for all the woe in his time in Scotland, he says he was a fan and still is.’
    • ‘I've never met him, but I'd love to inflict some of the woe he's put upon her onto his cowardly little mind.’
    misery, sorrow, distress, wretchedness, sadness, unhappiness, heartache, heartbreak, despondency, desolation, despair, dejection, depression, gloom, melancholy
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    1. 1.1woes Things that cause sorrow or distress; troubles.
      ‘to add to his woes, customers have been spending less’
      • ‘His chances have been blighted by a catalogue of injury woes and financial difficulties.’
      • ‘The extra money will do little to address the problem of Auckland's transport woes.’
      • ‘I want the extreme anti abortionist to understand the woes and difficulties.’
      • ‘With the result the woes of motorists have increased as they are finding it difficult to park vehicles.’
      • ‘And Pakistan will set England enough conundrums without added injury woes.’
      • ‘Now finally clear of injury woes, the Spaniard has been dogged by ongoing back problems.’
      • ‘Far from being the solution to our traffic woes, motorways are a large part of the problem.’
      • ‘You get a sense that Belfast is a place where economic problems feed private woes.’
      • ‘He may have solved Giba and Ivan's little problem, but that is only the beginning of their woes.’
      • ‘Yet following the seven woes, Jesus weeps over the plight of the people of Jerusalem.’
      • ‘In May this year ‘Harry’ stumbled across the page via Google and posted his own woes.’
      • ‘The problem with the Eastern Cape's financial woes is that there are just so many of them.’
      trouble, difficulty, problem, trial, tribulation, burden, cross to bear, misfortune, stroke of bad luck, setback, reverse, blow, misadventure, mishap, vicissitude, failure, accident, disaster, tragedy, catastrophe, calamity, adversity, affliction
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  • woe betide (or woe to)

    • literary Used humorously to warn (someone) that they will be in trouble if they do a specified thing.

      ‘woe betide anyone wearing the wrong colour!’
      • ‘But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!’
      • ‘But woe betide Town Council officialdom if there is another broken promise in respect of putting this bandstand into a decent and acceptable state of repair.’
      • ‘Yet woe betide the man who cops out and decides to skip Valentine's Day.’
      • ‘But woe betide me if something I want to watch coincides with something she wants to watch.’
      • ‘And woe to him inside a nonconformist clique who does not conform with nonconformity.’
      • ‘In Canada, a motorist may turn right even if traffic lights are showing red, but woe betide him if he is involved in an accident - no arguing, he is at fault.’
      • ‘At another Hotel in Dobrich we were given little slips of paper and woe betide you if you tried to get breakfast without them, not even sight of your room key was enough.’
      • ‘If you say you're coming for lunch at 1 then the dinner will be on the table at 1 and woe betide you if you are late.’
      • ‘All kanji have a set number of strokes and an order in which to write them, and woe betide you if you get either wrong.’
      • ‘And woe betide you if, like me, you stumble or hesitate over your order.’
  • woe is me!

    • literary An ironic or humorous exclamation of sorrow or distress.

      ‘he thinks he can go to his constituents and say ‘Woe is me! I only earn £30,000 a year.’’
      • ‘‘Alas, it was the right hand of the Government that imposed confiscation upon me, and now its left hand has stolen my seashores - woe is me!’’
      • ‘Anyway, my heart yearned to be with you once again, and my soul was in never ending pain. ‘Oh woe is me!’’
      • ‘If there were compelling characters or breathtaking lines or an interesting plot, we might not have noticed or cared that the three central characters are essentially just moaning, ‘oh, woe is me!’’


Natural exclamation of lament: recorded as wā in Old English and found in several Germanic languages.