views updated May 21 2018

woe / / • n. often humorous great sorrow or distress: they had a complicated tale of woe. ∎  (woes) things that cause sorrow or distress; troubles: to add to his woes, customers have been spending less.PHRASES: woe betide someone (or woe to someone) used humorously to warn someone that they will be in trouble if they do a specified thing: woe betide anyone wearing the wrong color!woe is me! an ironical or humorous exclamation of sorrow or distress.


views updated May 17 2018

A. int. and adv. as excl. of distress or grief (with dative) OE.;

B. sb. (arch.) misery, misfortune XII;

C. adj. grieved, wretched XII. OE. (also wǣ), corr. to OS., MLG. , (M)Du. wee, OHG. (G. weh), ON. vei, vǣ, Goth. wai; cf. Gr. , L. , W. gwae.
Hence woeful XIII.