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

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Other Words from wistful

wistfully \ ˈwist-​fə-​lē How to pronounce wistfully (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 That’s just one masterstroke in a film full of them: Michael Ballhaus’ ravishing cinematography; a powerfully wistful coda; Wharton’s wry, mannered prose transposed near-verbatim into an omniscient narrator’s sharp-tongued voice-over. Tyler Aquilina, EW.com, "Here are some underappreciated Martin Scorsese movies to pair with The Irishman," 1 Nov. 2019 Click through the above photos to see the best, saddest and most wistful memes and plots Astros fans are brewing for their favorite ace. Dan Carson, Houston Chronicle, "Astros memes beg Gerrit Cole to stay in Houston," 28 Oct. 2019 Bastille have a knack for songs that are catchy, exuberant and yet somehow still wistful and sad. John Adamian, courant.com, "Best Bets: Seven concerts not to miss this week," 22 Sep. 2019 Fans become wistful for those bygone days, when the Giants were winning World Series. Ann Killion, SFChronicle.com, "Why Giants’ Buster Posey still gets benefit of doubt in frustrating year," 13 Sep. 2019 Hope calls his late wife, breaking into a wistful smile. Paul Newberry, The Denver Post, "Newberry: Hope springs eternal as a sports collection is shed," 24 Aug. 2019 Many leave with the store’s signature brown-and-white striped bags, and wistful sighs about the end of an era. Leslie Brody, WSJ, "Bendel’s Closing Brings Nostalgia, and One Last Chance to Shop," 19 Sep. 2018 The song repeatedly changes tempo, vibe and subject but never feeling, a wistful delirium in which joy, pain, hope and nostalgia are all interchangeable. Billboard Staff, Billboard, "The 100 Best Songs of 1969: Staff Picks," 14 Aug. 2019 Homers are spectacle, double plays usually snappy and brisk, great snatches just over the wall both graceful and an exercise in wistful what-might-have-beens. Stephen Hunter, National Review, "Baseball Plays at the Plate," 22 Aug. 2019

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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Statistics for wistful

Last Updated

11 Nov 2019

Time Traveler for wistful

The first known use of wistful was in 1714

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More Definitions for wistful


How to pronounce wistful (audio)

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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More from Merriam-Webster on wistful

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for 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

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


not being in agreement or harmony

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