wist·​ful | \ˈwist-fəl \

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

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Other Words from wistful

wistfully \ˈwist-​fə-​lē \ 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

When control of the camera is removed from the player, the look of the game becomes impressionistic and wistful, and pastoral beauty is injected into the proceedings in a way one doesn't often see in video games. Julie Muncy, Ars Technica, "Life Is Strange 2, episode 1 review: New setting, same heart," 28 Sep. 2018 For a second, my younger self stares back at me: startled, wistful, pretty. Alex Witchel, New York Times, "Allison Pearson ‘Does It’ Again," 1 June 2018 Tish’s wistful voiceover narration seems drawn from the same luminous source as its images, shot by Moonlight cinematographer James Laxton. Alissa Wilkinson, Vox, "If Beale Street Could Talk adapts James Baldwin’s novel into a haunting, gorgeous film," 18 Sep. 2018 This contrast is set up in the music: The Hubbards, especially Regina, express themselves in steely declamation, while Birdie has wistful, lyrical tunes, including the opera’s best aria. Heidi Waleson, WSJ, "‘An American Soldier’ and ‘Regina’ Reviews: Prejudice and Power," 12 June 2018 This week, Dave Matthews gets wistful about innocence, Selena Gomez releases a track indebted to Avicii, and Marian Hill reimagine of the sound of Aaliyah and Timbaland. New York Times, "The Playlist: John Mayer Laments the Friend Zone, and 11 More New Songs," 11 May 2018 Musically, Trama's voice sounds wistful, framed by software that evokes the retro textures of a Farfisa organ. Ernesto Lechner, latimes.com, "Women reshaping the Buenos Aires music scene," 3 May 2018 Bernstein’s music balances wistful contemplation with skilled handling of voice leading and harmony. New York Times, "Is ‘Mass’ Leonard Bernstein’s Best Work, or His Worst?," 13 July 2018 Erin Rae’s lyrics are wistful and sometimes personal. Zoë Madonna, BostonGlobe.com, "Erin Rae’s translucent, wistful ‘Putting on Airs’," 6 June 2018

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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Dictionary Entries near wistful

wistaria violet







Statistics for wistful

Last Updated

9 Dec 2018

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Time Traveler for wistful

The first known use of wistful was in 1714

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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 \

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
wistfulness noun

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More from Merriam-Webster on wistful

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with wistful

Spanish Central: Translation of wistful

Nglish: Translation of wistful for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of wistful for Arabic Speakers

Comments on wistful

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a nest or breeding place

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