dole·​ful | \ˈdōl-fəl \

Definition of doleful 

1 : causing grief or affliction a doleful loss

2 : full of grief : cheerless a doleful face

3 : expressing grief : sad a doleful melody

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Other Words from doleful

dolefully \-​fə-​lē \ adverb
dolefulness noun

Examples of doleful in a Sentence

The girl had a doleful look on her face. You sounded so doleful about your future that night.

Recent Examples on the Web

These movies extend his doleful comedies across decades, cultures and nations, putting his words in the mouths of Australian ranchers, Japanese schoolgirls, French auteurs and jobbing New York actors. Alexis Soloski, New York Times, "‘The Seagull’ Brings Chekhov’s Doleful Comedy to Cinemas," 4 May 2018 The doleful arias, bickering duets and mocking trios are delivered at a relatively brisk tempo — a wise strategy for a work in which the small talk is circular, the gags repetitive and the grievances rehashed ad nauseam. Charles Mcnulty,, "A revelatory Denzel Washington in 'The Iceman Cometh'," 10 May 2018 The doleful voice of the late singer and poet Leonard Cohen issued from one of maybe 30 speakers piled on the instrument and arrayed about the room. Charles Desmarais, San Francisco Chronicle, "In the key of Leonard Cohen: ‘Poetry Machine’ brings late singer’s works to life," 4 May 2018 The production included a coyly doleful sub-Chaplin clown figure who put on a red nose now and then, but that was about as vulnerable as the show got. Alastair Macaulay, New York Times, "At Flamenco Festival, Finding the Force Beneath the Glitz," 12 Mar. 2018 The music favors doleful minor keys and skeletal harmonies. Jon Pareles, New York Times, "Pop Music in 2017: Glum and Glummer," 22 Dec. 2017 For the low, low price of hours of agonizing car rides and long anxious waiting in the lobbies of veterinary clinics while doleful barks and terrified meows filter through the halls, here’s six more months. S.e. Smith, Longreads, "How Much is Too Much to Save a Dying Cat?," 2 Nov. 2017 Five times each day, all activity stops when a doleful call to prayer breaks through the daily commerce. Pat Mcdonogh, The Courier-Journal, "'A social garden.' Worlds collide at Louisville's bustling International Mall," 10 Oct. 2017 Most of us who are past the age of 40 are aware from doleful personal experience that mental acuity wanes as the decades pass. Gretchen Reynolds, New York Times, "Moving When Young May Strengthen the Adult Brain," 30 Aug. 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'doleful.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of doleful

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for doleful

see dole entry 1

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Dictionary Entries near doleful


dole chaser

dole cupboard



dole money


Statistics for doleful

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Time Traveler for doleful

The first known use of doleful was in the 13th century

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English Language Learners Definition of doleful

: very sad


dole·​ful | \ˈdōl-fəl \

Kids Definition of doleful

: very sad a doleful day

Other Words from doleful

dolefully \-​fə-​lē \ adverb

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More from Merriam-Webster on doleful

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with doleful

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for doleful

Spanish Central: Translation of doleful

Nglish: Translation of doleful for Spanish Speakers

Comments on doleful

What made you want to look up doleful? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


living or existing for a long time

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