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

Keep scrolling for more

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

Ben Kutner’s original music also contributes to the wild, wistful mood. Los Angeles Times, "Review: ‘Men on Boats’ puts women at the helm of this thrill ride," 16 July 2019 As their fiances, both Javier Abreu and Sidney Outlaw sink their ample talents into some sweet, sadly wistful solos and enjoyable comedy. Rob Hubbard, Twin Cities, "Review: ‘Cosi fan tutte’ refuses to wilt on humid, stormy night," 15 July 2019 Their evening together is half-carefree, half-wistful and melancholy. Deborah Young, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Trijya - Radius': Film Review | Shanghai 2019," 1 July 2019 Tuesday night’s conga line wove through the closely packed tables, with some dancers grinning and others appearing wistful. Donna Freedman, Anchorage Daily News, "‘Whale Fat Follies’ launches final run with a hint of wistfulness and signature raucous humor," 28 June 2019 Only this time, Loeb herself appeared guitar in hand to perform the beloved hit to an audience that went into immediate hysterics over the wistful ballad. Keaton Bell, Vogue, "25 Years Later, the Cast and Crew of Reality Bites Reunites for a Special Screening," 7 May 2019 From the playful banter with Benedick to the wistful longing expressed with Don Pedro, and most notably to the absolute fury expressed over Hero’s shaming, Podewell’s handling of the dialogue is especially inspired. nola.com, "Wittiness and romance make ‘Much Ado’ quite something at Tulane Shakespeare Fest," 19 June 2019 Marshall reconnected with several teammates, but came away somewhat wistful. Geoff Baker, The Seattle Times, "Poulsbo resident, former defenseman Bert Marshall is keeping an eye on Seattle’s NHL decisions," 25 Mar. 2019 His former photography studio manager, Vasilios Zatse, recalls that Penn was wistful about fellow photographer Cartier-Bresson’s decision to pursue a career in painting and drawing. Lesley M. M. Blume, WSJ, "Master Photographer Irving Penn’s First Major Painting Exhibition: An Exclusive Look," 6 Sep. 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about wistful

Listen to Our Podcast about wistful

Dictionary Entries near wistful

wistaria violet







Statistics for wistful

Last Updated

22 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for wistful

The first known use of wistful was in 1714

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

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

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on wistful

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with wistful

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for 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).


something desired as essential

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

What's that Smell?! Quiz

  • wide eyed dog smelling rose
  • Someone who is hircine smells like a:
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Bee Cubed

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!