rue·​ful | \ ˈrü-fəl How to pronounce rueful (audio) \

Definition of rueful

1 : exciting pity or sympathy : pitiable rueful squalid poverty … by every wayside— John Morley
2 : mournful, regretful troubled her with a rueful disquiet— W. M. Thackeray

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Other Words from rueful

ruefully \ ˈrü-​fə-​lē How to pronounce ruefully (audio) \ 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 The failure to form a government had become a long-running and rueful joke in Brussels, an unofficial capital of the European Union. Matt Apuzzo, New York Times, "After 2 Years of Paralysis, Belgium Forms a (Very Fragile) Government," 1 Oct. 2020 Many of the magazine's former writers and editors provide amusingly rueful commentary in the film, including Dave Marsh, Robert Christgau, Chuck Eddy, Greil Marcus and former senior editor Jann Uhelszki. Frank Scheck, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Creem: America's Only Rock 'n' Roll Magazine': Film Review," 6 Aug. 2020 Columbo himself is a demilitarized dream of trustworthy law enforcement, played by the ever-sparkly Falk with wry charm and rueful moral purpose. Kristen Baldwin,, "The best TV shows of 2020… so far," 1 July 2020 There’s a rueful saying among traders that markets will move in whatever direction that will cause them the most pain. Peter Coy,, "Pessimistic Pros Missed the Big Rally, and So Did Many Americans," 11 June 2020 In On the Record’s later scenes, these comments take on a more rueful valence. Hannah Giorgis, The Atlantic, "On the Record and the Women Hip-Hop Sacrifices," 1 June 2020 In seconds, almost everyone in the class had a hand in the air, and the mood shifted from embarrassment and fear to an almost rueful sort of pride. B. Pietras, Longreads, "Secret Museums," 27 Apr. 2020 But the quarantine in Italy, whose ingovernabilità is a recurring national joke and occasionally the matter of a rueful pride, was made even more shocking by how quickly it was felt to be necessary. Robert P. Baird, The New Yorker, "What It Means to Contain and Mitigate the Coronavirus," 11 Mar. 2020 There’s plenty to poke at in Stengel’s rueful confession of naïveté about the inevitability of liberal democracy’s spread. William Hogeland, The New Republic, "History Won’t Save Us," 25 Mar. 2020

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

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Time Traveler for rueful

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

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Last Updated

5 Oct 2020

Cite this Entry

“Rueful.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Oct. 2020.

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More Definitions for rueful


How to pronounce rueful (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of rueful

: showing or feeling regret for something done


rue·​ful | \ ˈrü-fəl How to pronounce rueful (audio) \

Kids Definition of rueful

1 : exciting pity or sympathy

More from Merriam-Webster on rueful

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for rueful

Nglish: Translation of rueful for Spanish Speakers

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