rueful

adjective

rue·​ful ˈrü-fəl How to pronounce rueful (audio)
1
: exciting pity or sympathy : pitiable
rueful squalid poverty … by every waysideJohn Morley
2
: mournful, regretful
troubled her with a rueful disquietW. M. Thackeray
ruefully adverb
ruefulness noun

Examples of rueful in a Sentence

He gave me a rueful smile and apologized. the rueful faces of friends and family who had gathered to pay their last respects
Recent Examples on the Web Nadella quickly negotiated his return amid fears the company could split, and days later a rueful Sutskever apologized for his role in the mutiny. Christiaan Hetzner, Fortune, 15 May 2024 This is a persuasive concept, one that maps easily onto the score and gets at its rash youthfulness and rueful adulthood. Joshua Barone, New York Times, 4 Apr. 2024 The resulting series of escalating high jinks, which includes the use of blowfish poison, verges on the farcical, but the novel’s major chord is one of rueful longing. The New Yorker, 11 Mar. 2024 Often, though, snobbish pique yields to a more rueful and ruminative mode, as Li reflects on the waste and futility around him. The New Yorker, 5 Dec. 2023 The tone throughout Strength is by turns optimistic, rueful, and paternal. Will Hermes, Rolling Stone, 17 Nov. 2023 Streisand sings it with astute, rueful humor and a touch of heartache. Tom Gliatto, Peoplemag, 18 Nov. 2023 But on 1972’s For the Roses, 1974’s Court and Spark, and 1975’s The Hissing of Summer Lawns, Mitchell became more rueful and reflective, sometimes ditching her normal first-person voice for character studies and hiring jazz and fusion players to broaden her palette. David Browne, Rolling Stone, 3 Oct. 2023 This borderline sitcom setup is rife with dramatic opportunity, but Pritzker’s screenplay favors rueful anticlimax over conflict at all times. Jessica Kiang, Variety, 28 Sep. 2023

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'rueful.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of rueful was in the 13th century

Dictionary Entries Near rueful

Cite this Entry

“Rueful.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/rueful. Accessed 13 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition

rueful

adjective
rue·​ful ˈrü-fəl How to pronounce rueful (audio)
1
: exciting pity or sympathy
2
ruefully adverb

More from Merriam-Webster on rueful

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