Whoa is an interjection used to express shock or surprise. It was traditionally used to command a horse or person to stop or slow down. Like other interjections, whoa should be avoided in professional communication and academic writing.
The use of the variant spelling woah is more common in UK English than US English, but in both cases, it’s not considered standard. Many dictionaries and other language authorities do not accept this spelling at all.
Examples: Whoa or woah in a sentence ✗Woah! Are you serious?
✓ Whoa! Are you serious?
Whoa is often used as a cognitive interjection to express amazement, shock, or surprise. It’s often followed by an exclamation mark but may also be followed by a comma.
Examples: Whoa in a sentence (cognitive interjection) Whoa! That cat made it to the other side of the street just in time! Whoa! Don't creep up on me like that! Whoa, I don't think I've ever seen a koala in real life.
Whoa can also be used as a volitive interjection to command a person or horse (or other animal) to stop or slow down.
Examples: Whoa in a sentence (volitive interjection) Whoa, don't go so fast! I can't keep up! Whoa, horsey! Calm down, calm down. Whoa, whoa, whoa, where is that coming from?
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Whoa and woah are often confused, but whoa is the correct spelling. It is used as an interjection to express alarm or surprise, or to attract attention. “Woah” is a spelling variant that’s considered wrong by most language authorities.