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

After shaking off his rust, Federer rallied past Damir Dzumhur and moved on, rueful but unscathed. Los Angeles Times, "Column: Roger Federer and Serena Williams falter early but recover in time to advance," 28 Aug. 2019 In the respectable American right, a fascination with Rand was little more than a rueful rite of intellectual passage: a phase that grown-up right-wingers must set aside with other childish things. Alexander Sammon, The New Republic, "The Last of the Ayn Rand Acolytes," 14 Aug. 2019 The book is a rueful sigh, less instruction manual than recalibration of standards for male behavior. Raisa Bruner, Time, "A Sexologist, a Comedian and a Woman on a 'Man Fast' Rewrite the Rules of Dating," 8 Aug. 2019 Often, this insight is accompanied by the rueful observation that tweeting is easy. Katy Waldman, The New Yorker, "Is the Internet Making Writing Better?," 26 July 2019 Lorena, who now goes by her maiden name, Lorena Gallo, has become an anti-domestic violence activist (through the Lorena Gallo Foundation), and is thoughtful, rueful and certainly likable. John Anderson, WSJ, "‘Lorena’ Review: Cutting to the Heart of the Matter," 14 Feb. 2019 Atwood’s wry and rueful tales bridge the gap between your usual reading habits and your new interest in the natural world. Nicole Lamy, New York Times, "Books New and Old for the Would-Be Time Traveler," 1 May 2018 Having prepared the ingredients for an epic, Mr. Gessen has fashioned another work of narrow confessional realism that trucks in mundane observations and rueful ironies—something that feels, unfortunately, very American indeed. Sam Sacks, WSJ, "Fiction: Young and Privileged and Perpetually at Sea," 5 July 2018 Terrible revelations were batted back and forth in a spirit of rueful one-upmanship. Joseph O’neill, The New Yorker, "The First World," 21 June 2018

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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Dictionary Entries near rueful

rue anemone

rue bargain

rue family




rue oil

Statistics for rueful

Last Updated

14 Sep 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for rueful

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

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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

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More from Merriam-Webster on rueful

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for rueful

Spanish Central: Translation of rueful

Nglish: Translation of rueful for Spanish Speakers

Comments on rueful

What made you want to look up rueful? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to spread over or through

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