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Some dictionaries define whoa as Stop! while some define it as an expression of surprise/astonishment. Is there such a word as whoa, where did it originate from and what is its actual meaning?

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closed as general reference by onomatomaniak, Hugo, Matt E. Эллен, Mitch, yoozer8 Dec 22 '11 at 14:47

This question is too basic; it can be definitively and permanently answered by a single link to a standard internet reference source designed specifically to find that type of information.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

Voting to close as general reference. If the word appears in dictionaries, yes, such a word exists. Many words have multiple meanings. – onomatomaniak Dec 22 '11 at 9:16
But where does it original? (The history of Whoa). – Larry Morries Dec 22 '11 at 9:20
Questions about words' origins can often be found at the end of a dictionary entry or in an etymology dictionary, both of which are easily accessible online. Here's a link that should help you: etymonline.com/… – onomatomaniak Dec 22 '11 at 9:25
@onomatomaniak +1 Thanks for that link. I find it pretty useful. I am going to bookmark it. – Larry Morries Dec 22 '11 at 9:26
see my answer below for definitions and etymology – Kris Dec 22 '11 at 12:29
up vote 4 down vote accepted

The meanings of whoa:

  1. To express surprise (interj)

  2. To express astonishment(interj)

  3. To indicate a desire for one to end that of which they are speaking (interj)

  4. Evolved from a song to describe something that you're not quite sure exactly how to describe (adj)

Whoa can also be spelled woah though there are many arguments started by bored people about which way is correct.

  1. "Whoa! Don't do that, you scared me."

  2. "Whoa, that roller coaster is fast."

  3. "Whoa, okay, that's enough."

  4. "That car is so cool, it's like, whoa."

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+1 for 'arguments started by bored people'. As one of such, I would say that woah expressing surprise is different from whoa meaning 'slow down or stop', but I'm not bigoted about it. – TimLymington Dec 22 '11 at 10:48
+1 Nice one - 'arguments started by bored people'. – Larry Morries Dec 23 '11 at 0:40

It is very obviously an English word. It comes ultimately from Old French ho, but I agree that this is a question that hardly needs to be asked here.

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Hi Barrie, can you tell me where you get the information that the word actually came from Old French oh? – Larry Morries Dec 22 '11 at 9:31
@Larry Morries: The Oxford English Dictionary <oed.com/>;, but it's available only through paid subscription. – Barrie England Dec 22 '11 at 9:38

I had thought Whoa is the sound a cowboy let out to signal his horse to slow down (and stop). Whence, whoa means 'slow down (to stop)'.

[hwoh, woh]
stop! (used especially to horses).

Origin: 1615–25; dialectal variant of ho

1623, a cry to call attention from a distance, a variant of who. As a command to stop a horse, it is attested from 1843, a variant of ho. As an expression of delight or surprise (1980s) it has gradually superseded wow, which was very popular 1960s. [Etymonline]

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+1 Thanks for putting the history of the word in here. – Larry Morries Dec 23 '11 at 0:40

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