Whoa and woe are two words that are pronounced the same way but have different spellings and different meanings. They are homophones. We will look at the difference between the meanings of whoa and woe, where the words come from and some examples of their use in sentences.
Whoa is command to stop or slow down, usually directed at a horse but sometimes used in speaking with people. Whoa may also be used as an exclamation of surprise or interest, or an informal greeting. Whoa is generally considered to be a variant of the word who, first appearing in the 1500s. In the last decade the misspelling of whoa as woah has become somewhat common, but it is not considered an accepted rendering of the word.
Woe means unbearable sorrow or extreme distress. The plural form is woes. The word woe is derived from the Old English word wā, which was once a word of lament dating back as far as the 1100s.
Almost everything we publish could run under a headline that starts “Whoa, science…” — as in, “Whoa, science is beautiful,” “Whoa, science makes my head hurt,” etc. (The Washington Post)
“I’m in a tuxedo, and she’s in this beautiful dress and she looks gorgeous, and it’s like, ‘Whoa, that’s actually a piece of history,’ and I would never have thought of that happening.” (Entertainment Weekly)
For a merchant of woe, I must say, he was a jolly fellow and, by all accounts, an exemplary civil servant – polite, personable, generous with information. (The Prince George Citizen)
Storm Conor set to hit Scotland bringing Boxing Day weather woe as amber warning issued (The Scottish Daily Record)