The Meaning of Alas: What It Is and How To Use It

Do you know the definition of alas? This article will provide you with all of the information you need on the word alas, including its definition, usage, word origin, example sentences, and more!

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What does the word alas mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language as well as other English dictionaries like Collins English Dictionary or American Heritage, the word alas is an interjection or exclamation of grief that is used to express unhappiness, bad luck, something unfortunate, alarm, concern, grief, regret, or pity. The word alas can also be used as an abbreviation for the state of Alaska, or a type of depression that occurs in Yakutia at the subsidence of permafrost. The pronunciation of alas is əˈlæs. 

Many different languages also have their own exclamations of sorrow. You may notice that some of these words sound or are spelled similar to one another. These are called cognates, which are words and phrases that mean something similar as well as looking and sounding similar across languages. This list of translations for the word alas is provided by Word Sense.

  •  Persian: افسوس‎ (afsus), آوخ‎ (āvax), وای‎ (vāy)
  •  Norwegian: akk‎
  •  Latin: eheu‎, heu‎, vae‎
  •  Breton: siwazh‎
  •  Romanian: vai‎
  •  Finnish: voi kauhistus, kauheaa, kuinka ikävää
  •  Esperanto: ve‎
  •  Hiligaynon: aba‎, abao‎
  •  German: leider‎, ach‎, bedauerlicherweise‎, weh‎
  •  Albanian: bubu‎, bobo‎, vaj‎
  •  Armenian: ափսոս‎
  •  Swedish: ack‎
  •  Catalan: ai las‎
  •  Russian: увы́‎, ах‎
  •  French: hélas‎
  •  Japanese: ああ‎ (ā), あたら‎ (atara)
  •  Irish: abhó‎
  •  Spanish: ay‎, ay de mí‎, aymé‎, aj‎, vay‎, heu‎, guay‎
  •  Old English: ēalā‎
  •  Sorani: ئاخ‎ (ax), هاوار‎ (hawar), هه‌ی هاوار‎ (hei hawar), داخاکه‌م‎ (daxekem), ئه‌فسۆس‎ (efsos)
  •  Serbo-Croatian: авај‎, avaj‎
  •  Turkish: ah‎, aman‎, eyvah‎
  •  Czech: běda‎
  •  Danish: ak‎
  •  Portuguese: ai de mim‎
  •  Thai: อนิจจา‎, โถ‎, โธ่‎, พิโธ่‎, พุทโธ่‎, พุทถัง‎, อพิโถ‎, อพิโธ่‎, อพิโธ่อพิถัง‎, พุทโธ่พุทถัง‎, อพิโธ่พิถัง‎
  •  Hungarian: ajjaj‎
  •  Ido: ve‎
  •  Scottish Gaelic: och‎, mo thruaighe‎, mo chreach‎, mo sgal‎
  •  Mandarin: 唉‎ (āi), 哎呀‎ (āiyā), 嗚呼‎, 呜呼‎ (wūhū)
  •  Estonian: paraku‎, kahjuks‎
  •  Arabic: وَاحَسْرَتَاه‎, وَاهًا‎
  •  Greek: αλίμονο‎
  •  Italian: ahimè‎, purtroppo‎
  •  Dutch: helaas‎, o wee‎, jammer genoeg‎

How can the word alas be used in a sentence?

The word last can be used in many different circumstances, particularly if one is having an unhappy time. Below are many examples of the word alas being used in a sentence. Try using this word in a sentence today, or creating quizzes to help you learn its definition. In this example, Rachel and Rhonda are talking about Rachel’s boyfriend. 

Rachel: Alas, Kevin made another inappropriate comment. This time he did it at my work. I am just trying to work on this advertisement and I don’t need anyone distracting me or making me seem unprofessional.

Rhonda: Rachel, I think you’re thinking the same thing I’m thinking. It is time for Kevin to become your ex. If you want to be a high-profile ad exec, you can’t have an overgrown frat boy by your side. 

Rachel: Alas, you’re right.

Here, Rachel uses the word alas to express her grief at the situation of having to break up with Kevin. In this next example, Rhonda comes to Rachel with bad news. 

Rhonda: Alas, I have been fired once again. That’s 6 jobs in a year. I don’t know how much longer I can do this.

Rachel: Rhonda, maybe retail just isn’t for you. It doesn’t seem like you like it, and you always complain about both the customers and the management. Maybe it’s time to make a career change. You could go back to school, or get some other training.

Rhonda: I have only got retail experience on my resume. Nowhere else is going to hire me.

Rachel: Haven’t you always said that you wanted to go to cosmetology school to become a hairstylist? I think that this is a sign that you should quit your job and go to cosmetology school. 

Rhonda: Alas, you are correct.

What are synonyms and antonyms for the word alas?

There are many different words in the English language that somebody could use in place of the word alas. These are called synonyms. Synonyms are words and phrases that have the same meaning or definition as another given word or phrase. Learning synonyms is a great way to avoid repeating yourself, and expand your English language vocabulary. This list of synonyms for the word alas is provided by Thesaurus

  •  oh
  •  dear
  •  disastrously
  •  grievously
  •  cheerlessly
  •  sorrowfully
  •  dejectedly
  •  unhappily
  •  regrettably
  •  lamentably
  •  horribly
  •  joylessly
  •  gee
  •  woe
  •  dolefully
  •  miserably
  •  unsuccessfully
  •  morosely
  •  woe is me
  •  wistfully
  •  sadly
  •  gloomily
  •  dear me
  •  unfortunately
  •  too bad
  •  dismally

There are also many different words that have the opposite meaning of the word alas. These opposite words are called antonyms, which are another great way to expand your English language vocabulary. This list of antonyms for the word alas is also provided by Thesaurus.

  •  yell
  •  hurrah
  •  yippee
  •  encouragement
  •  rah-rah
  •  alack
  •  cheer
  •  huzza
  •  three cheers
  •  yay
  •  hurray
  •  hip-hip
  •  whoopee

What is the origin of the word alas?

According to Etymonline, the interj./adv. alas has been used since the 13th century in Middle English. This comes from the Old French ha and Old French las, as well as the Modern French hélas or helas, from ha and las. These roots stem from the Latin lassus meaning weary, from the Proto-Indo-European roots and le. At first, this term was used as an expression of weariness rather than woe. In the past, one may have seen this spelled oe allas or a lasse.

Overall, the word alas is used as an exclamation to express sorrow, apprehension of evil, apprehension of danger, or regret. This is similar to the express oh woe or woe is me, and is of Latin origin. This can also be considered an adverb, and used to show compassion. 

Sources: 

  1. ALAS Synonyms: 7 Synonyms & Antonyms for ALAS | Thesaurus 
  2. YAY Synonyms: 10 Synonyms & Antonyms for YAY | Thesaurus 
  3. alas: meaning, origin, translation | Word Sense 
  4. alas | Origin and meaning of alas | Online Etymology Dictionary 
  5. Alas | Definition of Alas | Merriam-Webster