'Whoa' vs 'Whoah': What's the Difference Between the Two?

By Carly Forsaith, updated on December 14, 2022

'Whoa' and 'whoah' are two common spellings for this interjection. But is there an official way to spell it? And if so, what is it? What does the word mean? That's what we'll cover in this article.

In short, the correct spelling for the word is 'whoa.' 'Whoah' is a common misspelling. It's an interjection used to express surprise, among other things.

What Does 'Whoa' Mean?

The word is an interjection mainly used orally and in informal settings. It expresses surprise, amazement, and other highly positive emotions. It's also sometimes used to express disgust or shock.

It's a little like saying, "Really?" or "Seriously?".

The spellings' whoa' and 'whoah' are often confused, and even sometimes 'woah.' But the only correct spelling is 'whoa.'

Since the word has mainly been used orally since the 1800s, it's challenging to know the official spelling. Many people might even think it doesn't have a proper spelling.

But it does.

How to Use It

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as "a command (as to a draft animal) to stand still. In other words, it was used to tell an animal to stop, primarily horses.

Though it may still be used for that purpose, its meaning has also evolved to express extreme emotion. In a way, it's kept its original meaning in that it calls for the interlocutor to stop and pay attention. It calls for a pause in the conversation to acknowledge something.

The Online Etymology Dictionary notes its use starting in 1843 as "a command to stop a horse" and from the 1980s as "an expression of delight or surprise."

The word 'whoa' is pronounced very similarly to 'wow,' which it's synonymous with. The 'o' in 'whoa' has a long sound, however, like the 'oa' in 'boat.'

Whereas 'wow' is pronounced /waʊ/.

What's fun about this word is that you can repeat it if you want to make a more significant impact. Say "whoa, whoa, whoa" for added emphasis. For example:

Whoa, whoa, whoa, sorry to interrupt, but did you see how fast that guy was driving?

Examples of 'Whoa' in Use

Now that we've covered the basics - what the word means and how to spell it- let's look at some example sentences.

Whoa! This blog article is fantastic!

Whoa! Did you see that bird fly into the window?

Whoa, what's going on?

Whoa! You really want to go there? It kinda sucks.

Top it with bacon, and whoa! You've got yourself a Caesar Salad.

I was like, whoa, no way we're doing that.

There are also some common idioms and expressions that make use of the word. You may have heard them before. Here are some of them:

  • Whoa, Nelly!
  • From go to whoa
  • From giddy-up to whoa

Trick to Remember the Difference

While I've covered the correct spelling of the word here in this article, I know it's a tricky one to remember. The two spellings are so similar, and the 'h' is silent in both cases.

So, other than returning to this article to check the correct spelling, there's a trick for you to remember the right way to spell it.

Remember how I said the word's original usage was mainly to tell horses to stop? The clue is in the spelling of the word 'horse.' It's in the 'ho,' specifically. If you can remember how to spell the word 'horse,' you'll know that the 'h' is followed by an 'o'. That's the same as the word 'whoa.'

Concluding Thoughts on 'Whoa'

Hopefully, you now feel more confident about your spelling of the word 'whoa,' and you now know that there is, in fact, an official spelling for the word.

If you found this article helpful, remember to check out our other confusing word articles, where we dispel myths around common misspellings.

We encourage you to share this article on Twitter and Facebook. Just click those two links - you'll see why.

It's important to share the news to spread the truth. Most people won't.

Written By:
Carly Forsaith
Carly Forsaith is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. Carly is a copywriter who has been writing about the English language for over 3 years. Before that, she was a teacher in Thailand, helping people learn English as a second language. She is a total grammar nerd and spends her time spotting language errors on signs and on the internet.

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