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 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 Peter Gelb, the Met’s general manager, recalled with a rueful chuckle. Zachary Woolfe, New York Times, "The Met Opera’s ‘Dutchman’ Sails Into Port With a New Star," 1 Mar. 2020 Of course, in general, blue-collar folks are gonna be pranksters, and funny, and rueful. Aric Jenkins, Fortune, "‘American Factory’ directors on capturing what ‘globalization looks like on a human scale’," 29 Jan. 2020 The drama scrambles its storytelling not to yield rueful laughs but to approximate the experience of a medical condition in objective theatrical form. Los Angeles Times, "Review: Alfred Molina, like Lear with dementia, thunders in ‘The Father’ at Pasadena Playhouse," 12 Feb. 2020 His 2006 debut feature, was a rueful comedy about the meaning of revolution, as a word and a concept. Justin Chang, Los Angeles Times, "Review: The sharp heist-thriller pleasures of ‘The Whistlers’ translate into any language," 26 Feb. 2020 First, the dreamy sound world and rueful yearnings of America’s great romantic nostalgist, Samuel Barber. Savannah Eadens, The Courier-Journal, "From Kentucky to NYC, Louisville Orchestra's 2020-21 season is a 'Road to Carnegie Hall'," 23 Feb. 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

Time Traveler

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

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Last Updated

10 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Rueful.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 May. 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

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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

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