How do you spell the exclamation that rhymes with the word “woe”? Is it woah or whoa? The correct spelling in the United States is whoa, but when words are primarily transmitted orally, spelling often varies. This is part of a complete episode.

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  1. It is not only being misspelled in personal emails, I have been seeing it misspelled in movie subtitles, in lyrics on You Tube, etc. It has been driving me crazy, too. The word “whoa,” has been around forever. It’s what you say to stop a horse. It has always been spelled, “WHOA.” Now it seems the misspelling has found its way into general usage. What else will we start misspelling, simply because we are lazy and ignorant? It seems to me that it all has to do with the dumbing-down of America.

  2. Brian Yagel says:

    Actually, “Whoa” and “Woah” are separated in common usage only by about a decade, and both have been commonly used since the middle 1800s. Both are variants of “woa”, around since the 1840s. “Woa” itself is a variant of “Wo” from the late 1700s, deriving from the interjection (not pronoun) “Who”, which has been around since the middle 1400s. “Whoa” predates “Woah” by about ten years. But, (perhaps) interestingly, it depends on which English speaking country you live in as to which is considered “standard”. “Woah” is the favored spelling in the UK, while both spellings are in common use in the US. Both are correct, so use whichever you like. Or, if you want to get REALLY “correct” (and by that I mean ridiculously anal retentive), just go back to “Wo”. Apparently that’s when the “dumbing down” started.

  3. What are your sources for all that, Brian? I find no evidence at all in corpora or dictionaries that “woah” is the favored spelling in the UK. Also, you’re confusing historical forms with modern forms, which is not really what the whoa vs. woah debate is about.

  4. To elaborate: although the OED correctly lists those older forms as being the progenitors of the modern ones, they’re not the same words, exactly, and to suggest that the older forms are somehow more correct is a form of etymological fallacy.

    This discussion is about the modern standardized spelling of “whoa” vs. “woah.” The evidence shows that “woah” is rare (here’s a for-what-it’s-worth Google Ngrams comparison, almost never appears in professionally edited texts, and is rarely included as a variant spelling in any non-historical English dictionary (I do see it in one edition of a Collins dictionary).

  5. Jack Koski says:

    An updated for-what-it’s-worth, including Whoa and Woah with uppercase w’s. With those in the mix, “whoa” is clearly far above woah in number of occurrences.

  6. amdgbvmh says:

    I believe it goes like so: Cowboys say “whoa”, city people say “woah”.

  7. Somewherelse says:

    Woah is what I grew up with (in Alberta for what it’s worth), although I did recognize that a lot of people also write whoa. I always thought it was a USA phenomenon, much like color, favorite and other ‘u’-less misspellings (whoa and favourite being ‘correct’ because of their historical popularity/origin regardless of what this American spell check believes)

  8. BlindKid says:

    @ Somewhereelse, Ha, I love how you think “color, favorite and other ‘u’-less” words are “misspellings” just because they’re not spelled the way YOU “grew up with” them. I’ve always been fascinated by such linguistic arrogance.

  9. mercenarygrip says:

    @Somewherelse, One of my favourite things about ignorant people like you, is how you colour your “misspellings” as being correct, just because that’s how words are spelled where you reside, damn the rest of the world. And then, I have no doubt, that you will go on to accuse Americans of being “arrogant,” or “ignorant,” for doing the EXACT SAME THING. Thank you for providing irrefutable evidence, that arrogance & ignorance are not limited to a single country, and that they are in fact, world wide.

  10. Ehughes says:

    I believe these last few comments call for a strong WHOA! Or Woah if you prefer.

  11. JoeBeach says:

    I believe the appearance (or resurgence) of this misspelling is due to the Internet and all the 12 year olds that get on here and know that there is a “a” and an “h” in there somewhere and are to lazy or ignorant to find the correct spelling and then they never grow out of it. I think “woah” should be pronounced as in “Noah”.

  12. Me says:

    I like your pronunciation suggestion, but your post pains me because of your use of an incorrect indefinite article and your confusion of a three-letter word with a two-letter word.
    So much for grammar and spelling in your world.

  13. says:

    I just found this webpage while I was looking for crossword clues and I read the thread above. I have just one question, “What color is the dress?”

  14. FrankTW says:

    Excuse me? I am frankly insulted by your views on twelve year-olds. It’s very judgmental. And ‘woah’ just looks really, really stupid if you read any books at all, because no professional person uses that spelling. It’s poop.

  15. bfair31 says:

    I came here after seeing this and thinking, “Wait… that’s wrong… right?”

    Thanks for the reassurance! 🙂

  16. Captain Fleshyboi III says:

    I’ve grown up with “woah”, but now that I know the correct form I’ll change it. That’s the boat that most people are in, just misinformed. Not stupid, not “arrogantly-ignorant”, not a part of a “dumbed-down” world, they just didn’t know that one spelling was wrong, and the other right. It’s just an issue of a misspelling of a word being (tragically) introduced into the mainstream, nothing to get your panties into a twist.

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