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

Other Words from rueful

ruefully \ ˈrü-​fə-​lē How to pronounce rueful (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 Ellis concludes with an almost rueful recognition that the states had a distance to go before nationhood felt even a little secure. Washington Post, 1 Oct. 2021 Her mood will soften and become more rueful as the album goes along… and then get pissed again. Chris Willman, Variety, 17 Sep. 2021 His rueful fascination with the interpenetration of public spaces and private lives carries over into his artfully self-aware approach to the decisively framing forms of cinematic narrative. Richard Brod, The New Yorker, 8 July 2021 They are intertwined so inextricably that there’s no performance as such, only the exquisitely rueful yet improbably hopeful presence that this remarkable actress brings to her role. Joe Morgenstern, WSJ, 20 Apr. 2021 Thomas utilizes the genre to tell this story that uses Jewish lore and demonology to talk about memory, catharsis and trauma; Davis’ incredible performance brings a deeply sad and rueful element to the film. Katie Walsh, Los Angeles Times, 24 Feb. 2021 The novel teeters between rueful recollections of his unfaithful wife and the son who has rejected him, to his horrific experiences before and during the war. Lauren Fox, WSJ, 26 Feb. 2021 It’s a haunting performance that combines rueful tones with physical grace. Joe Morgenstern, WSJ, 23 Dec. 2020 Ames, stranded and broke, perhaps recalled Captain Seaborn’s rueful final lines. Paul Collins, The New Yorker, 28 Nov. 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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The first known use of rueful was in the 13th century

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Dictionary Entries Near rueful

rue family



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Last Updated

6 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Rueful.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Nov. 2021.

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More Definitions for rueful



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

Nglish: Translation of rueful for Spanish Speakers


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