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

Definition of plaintive

: expressive of suffering or woe : melancholy a plaintive sigh

Other Words from plaintive

plaintively adverb
plaintiveness noun

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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 Taken as a whole, the messages reflect a plaintive cry from beleaguered riders who merely want a reliable transit system, one in which buses and trains show up when they are supposed to without breaking down or catching fire. Shirley Leung,, 24 July 2022 Just like those plaintive messages that have to travel great distances and pass through impassable barriers, thoughts and ideas get garbled through transmission. Jessica Kiang, Variety, 9 July 2022 If the Supreme Court held an end-of-term awards ceremony, the Old College Try Prize for great effort with zero success would go to Chief Justice John Roberts for his plaintive concurring opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. David J. Garrow, WSJ, 26 June 2022 Together, the pair’s voices blend perfectly, painting a heartbreaking portrait of infidelity and love lost, all over the smooth, echoing strains of a plaintive guitar and some poignant vocal harmonies. Stephen Daw, Billboard, 10 June 2022 The singer of that plaintive ballad is Sarah (Aisling Franciosi), a young woman with deep ties to the O’Hara family, whose own parents have died, leaving her alone in an echoing house. David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter, 19 May 2022 The tempo is slowed and Nell’s plaintive lead vocals drift in echoey layers over a steady acoustic guitar provided by Nev Cottee. Jon Blistein, Rolling Stone, 3 May 2022 The trailer, bowing exclusively in Variety, opens at a wake where Humberto’s plaintive baritone plays against a series of images that hint at the family drama that unfolds. Anna Marie De La Fuente, Variety, 24 May 2022 Anonymity and secrecy are key to the work but also a source of deep melancholy, and the novel uncovers a plaintive connection between artistic transcendence and personal loneliness. Sam Sacks, WSJ, 13 May 2022 See More

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.

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

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The first known use of plaintive was circa 1570

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Dictionary Entries Near plaintive

plain tire


plain turkey

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Last Updated

8 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Plaintive.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 15 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for plaintive


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

Nglish: Translation of plaintive for Spanish Speakers


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