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Alternative forms[edit]


From Middle English woful, waful, equivalent to woe +‎ -ful. Compare Old English wālīċ (woeful), Old English tēonful (woeful).


  • IPA(key): /ˈwəʊfəl/
    • (file)


woeful (comparative woefuller, superlative woefullest)

  1. Full of woe; sorrowful; distressed with grief or calamity.
    • 1595, Samuel Daniel, “(please specify the folio number)”, in The First Fowre Bookes of the Ciuile Wars between the Two Houses of Lancaster and Yorke, London: [] P[eter] Short for Simon Waterson, OCLC 28470143:
      How many woeful widows left to bow / To sad disgrace!
  2. Bringing calamity, distress, or affliction.
    a woeful event
    a woeful lack of restraint
  3. Lamentable, deplorable.
  4. Wretched; paltry; poor.
    • 1711, Pope, Alexander, An Essay on Criticism; republished in The Complete Poetical Works of Alexander Pope, Boston, New York: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1902, page 72:
      What woful stuff this madrigal would be / In some starv'd hackney sonneteer or me!

Derived terms[edit]