Whoa or Woah?

C.B. from Malibu, California, wrote, "How do we stop people from spelling 'whoa' as 'woah'? Please tell me when this misspelling started. Even professional websites misspell it."

Mignon Fogarty,
September 15, 2014

Whoa or Woah?

I don't know how the misspelling started, but a 2004 entry for woah on Urban Dictionary proves that it's at least a decade old, and a Google Ngram search shows much older occasional misspellings.

Here's a way to remember the proper spelling: Who and ho are two origins that are often cited for whoa. For example, Dictionary.com states that ho came first as a Middle English command to make a horse stop and then evolved sometime around 1620 into whoa. To remember how to spell whoa, remember that the original word—ho, something you'd say to a horse—stays intact in the middle.

Also, in 1616 in the play "The Winter's Tale," William Shakespeare had a character known only as Shepherd call out "Whoa-ho-hoa!" Say it in your mind: whoa-ho-hoa. Say it loudly like Santa Claus: whoa-ho-hoa! The extra hos after the whoa should also help you remember to keep the ho in the middle.


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Image courtesy of Shutterstock.


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