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1. cliché Said to any person, thing, or animal (especially a horse) that one is trying to get under control or coax into slowing down. "Whoa, Nellie!" he shouted as the bucking bronco tossed him to and fro. A: "Whoa, Nellie! Just cool your jets, big guy!" B: "Get off of me! I didn't do anything wrong!"
2. An exclamation of surprise or astonishment, especially when something is more intense than one expected. Whoa, Nellie. Now that is one strong drink you fixed me! A: "Whoa, Nellie. I think I need to sit down for a minute!" B: "A bit of a tougher hike than you were expecting, huh?"
An exclamation of surprise. The phrase is generally thought to have originated as a command to slow down a horse (wherein "Nelly" is the horse's name). They're engaged already? Whoa, Nelly! Whoa, Nelly—what is going on in here?
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
Rur. Wait! Stop! Tom: When I get that money, I'm gonna get me my own place, and then you and I can get married, and—Jane: Whoa, Nellie! When did I say I was going to marry you? Whoa, Nellie! Did you measure them boards before you started cuttin' 'em?
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.