plain·​tive | \ ˈplān-tiv How to pronounce plaintive (audio) \

Definition of plaintive

: expressive of suffering or woe : melancholy a plaintive sigh

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Other Words from plaintive

plaintively adverb
plaintiveness noun

Did You Know?

Like its relative "plangent," "plaintive" is often used to describe sad sounds. "A plaintive wail," for example, is a common use. "Plaintive" and "plangent" (along with relatives "plaintiff" and "complain") ultimately derive from the Latin verb plangere, meaning "to strike," "to beat one's breast," or "to lament." This Latin verb led to "plaint," an Anglo-French word (and now also an English word) meaning "lamentation." "Plaint" is the root of Middle English "plaintif" (meaning "lamenting" or "complaining"), which gave rise to "plaintive" as well as the noun "plaintiff."

Examples of plaintive in a Sentence

We could hear the plaintive cry of a wounded animal in the woods. the puppy's plaintive expression after we put the toy away was rather amusing
Recent Examples on the Web The title song, which races along at a hundred and ninety beats per minute, is a frenetic, danceable soundtrack for this miserable moment, a song that transforms pain and worry into something plaintive, angry, and defiant. Daniel Alarcón, The New Yorker, "Rita Indiana’s Songs for the Apocalypse," 19 Oct. 2020 Those were the plaintive words that moderator Susan Page of USA Today employed dozens of times as Pence blew through the debate time limits like a vice presidential limousine roaring through stoplights. Walter Shapiro, The New Republic, "A Petulant Trump Squanders His Best Chance for a Breakthrough," 8 Oct. 2020 Bradley’s film is a lyrical documentary, a piece that feels like a poem or a prayer, an almost meditative experience, set to a plaintive piano score. Katie Walsh,, "‘Time’ review: A powerful nonfiction exploration of what long-term incarceration does to a family," 7 Oct. 2020 Hospitals began to fill and the plaintive wail of ambulances became a nighttime soundtrack. Azam Ahmed, New York Times, "In the Epicenter of Mexico’s Epicenter, Feeling Like a ‘Trapped Animal’," 18 Sep. 2020 The haunting, plaintive wail of New Guinean singing dogs once resounded throughout the island’s lush mountains and valleys. Michael Price, Science | AAAS, "New Guinea’s mysterious singing dogs found again in the wild," 31 Aug. 2020 In Diplo's hands, the dreamily plaintive track is slowed down and glitched up, with the sensual warmth of the original traded for a more mechanical feeling, like robots in love. Katie Bain, Billboard, "Diplo Delivers a Mechanized Edit of Glass Animals' Steamy 'Heat Waves': Listen," 11 Aug. 2020 Despite our plaintive protestations, the manual transmission is dying and may soon be gone altogether. Rich Ceppos, Car and Driver, "As Manuals Wane, Blame It on the Paddles," 8 Aug. 2020 Among the contributions from local artists is a plaintive piano ballad by Mr. Newman. Stephen Humphries, The Christian Science Monitor, "A different kind of care package: Concertgoers ‘Blanket the Homeless’," 23 June 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'plaintive.' 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 plaintive

circa 1570, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for plaintive

Middle English plaintif grieving, from Anglo-French pleintif, plaintif, from plaint

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Time Traveler for plaintive

Time Traveler

The first known use of plaintive was circa 1570

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Last Updated

30 Oct 2020

Cite this Entry

“Plaintive.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 30 Oct. 2020.

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More Definitions for plaintive


How to pronounce plaintive (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of plaintive

formal : expressing suffering or sadness : having a sad sound


plain·​tive | \ ˈplān-tiv How to pronounce plaintive (audio) \

Kids Definition of plaintive

: showing or suggesting sadness : mournful a plaintive sigh

More from Merriam-Webster on plaintive

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for plaintive

Nglish: Translation of plaintive for Spanish Speakers

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