plaintive

adjective
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 David Matthews supplied softly plaintive English horn solos. Scott Cantrell, Dallas News, "Conductor Fabio Luisi gets new suavity, subtlety and plenty of drama from the Dallas Symphony," 10 Jan. 2020 Common loons live on Maine’s lakes and ponds and are known for their plaintive call. USA TODAY, "Loveland valentines, crime scene towels, corn trail: News from around our 50 states," 9 Jan. 2020 The same week, the largely plaintive Stones in the Road spent its fifth week at the Top Country Albums summit, encompassing its entire run on the ranking to that point. Gary Trust, Billboard, "Rewinding the Country Charts: In 1994, Mary Chapin Carpenter Smacked a 'Kiss' Atop Hot Country Songs," 19 Nov. 2019 For Har’el, who built her career by constantly knocking on closed doors and then knocking them down, this is more than just a plaintive battle cry. Stacy Perman, latimes.com, "Filmmaker Alma Har'el frees up space for women in the entertainment industry," 17 June 2019 The season opens with the faintest noise: A single French horn bleats a plaintive melody while a platoon of hoary men from the Royal Mail service, all wearing dark suits, shuffles into a stateroom in Buckingham Palace. Rachel Syme, The New Republic, "The Dramatic Detachment of The Crown," 12 Dec. 2019 The very shape of the opening phrase – tender and plaintive – suggested there would be poetry ahead, and indeed there was. Howard Reich, chicagotribune.com, "CSO review: Conductor David Afkham at his best in Brahms," 25 Oct. 2019 Kakacek’s unerring taste and restraint didn’t allow for any showboating, but his embellishments teased out hooks and counter-melodies beneath Erhlich’s plaintive tenor. Greg Kot, chicagotribune.com, "Concert review: Whitney makes small moments count at Thalia Hall," 3 Dec. 2019 As cracking leaves and creaking doors giving way to plaintive clavichords, Jaar bleeds atmosphere and rhythm into an unholy playground for Harrington's piercing guitar work. Billboard Staff, Billboard, "The 40 Greatest Dance Albums of the Decade: Staff List," 26 Nov. 2019

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

20 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Plaintive.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/plaintively. Accessed 28 January 2020.

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More Definitions for plaintive

plaintive

adjective
How to pronounce plaintive (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of plaintive

formal : expressing suffering or sadness : having a sad sound

plaintive

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

Kids Definition of plaintive

: showing or suggesting sadness : mournful a plaintive sigh

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More from Merriam-Webster on plaintive

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for plaintive

Spanish Central: Translation of plaintive

Nglish: Translation of plaintive for Spanish Speakers

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