wist·​ful | \ ˈwist-fəl How to pronounce wistful (audio) \

Definition of wistful

1 : full of yearning or desire tinged with melancholy also : inspiring such yearning a wistful memoir
2 : musingly sad : pensive a wistful glance

Other Words from wistful

wistfully \ ˈwist-​fə-​lē How to pronounce wistful (audio) \ adverb
wistfulness noun

Wistful Has a Wishful History

Are you yearning to know the history of wistful? If so, we can ease your melancholy a little by telling you that wistful comes from a combination of wishful and wistly, a now obsolete word meaning "intently." We can't say with certainty where wistly came from, but it may have sprung from whistly, an old term meaning "silently" or "quietly." How did the supposed transition from a word meaning "quietly" to one meaning "intently" come about? That's something to muse about, but the answer isn't known.

Examples of wistful in a Sentence

She was wistful for a moment, then asked, “Do you remember the old playground?”. He had a wistful look on his face.
Recent Examples on the Web The artist has been one of my mainstays this year, as has this song that's equal parts lovely and wistful. Christopher Rosa, Glamour, 24 Dec. 2021 While very much a feel-good movie, there’s a wistful melancholy that ebbs and flows throughout as well. Christopher Arnott, courant.com, 10 Nov. 2021 In this film, the intricate, airless visual style and tone of wistful melancholy for which Anderson has become famous would really cohere. Alison Willmore, Vulture, 22 Oct. 2021 Shteyngart deftly pivots from this hilarious, tragicomic parody to a mood closer to the wistful, elegiac tones of his beloved Russian master, Chekhov. Washington Post, 2 Nov. 2021 Even when her lyrics are melancholy or wistful there is still hope and resolution behind them. Hanna Flanagan, PEOPLE.com, 14 Sep. 2021 Orth is both proud and wistful for that time after 9/11 when the chasm seemed invisible. Kevin Fagan, San Francisco Chronicle, 8 Sep. 2021 At the wistful center of things usually stands a young woman. Katy Waldman, The New Yorker, 20 Sep. 2021 The cleverest thing the FX series about the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal does is lull viewers into wistful remembrance right before walloping them with revisionism. Sophie Gilbert, The Atlantic, 10 Sep. 2021

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

1714, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for wistful

blend of wishful and obsolete English wistly intently

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The first known use of wistful was in 1714

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Last Updated

11 Jan 2022

Cite this Entry

“Wistful.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/wistful. Accessed 19 Jan. 2022.

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More Definitions for wistful



English Language Learners Definition of wistful

: having or showing sad thoughts and feelings about something that you want to have or do and especially about something that made you happy in the past


wist·​ful | \ ˈwist-fəl How to pronounce wistful (audio) \

Kids Definition of wistful

: feeling or showing a quiet longing especially for something in the past

Other Words from wistful

wistfully \ -​fə-​lē \ adverb There had been a time, he remembered it wistfully, when things had been quite different … — Robert Lawson, Rabbit Hill


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