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 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 Collectors are still wistful for the pre-pandemic art world. Kelly Crow, WSJ, "Millennial Buyers Help Global Art Market Survive the Covid Pandemic," 4 Jan. 2021 Many, such as Judith Krovetz of Boynton Beach, are wistful for what feels like a year robbed from the twilight of their lives. Tribune News Service, al, "Fear, sadness, loneliness: South Florida’s seniors spent most of 2020 locked away," 3 Jan. 2021 Many, like Judith Krovetz of Boynton Beach, are wistful for what feels like a year robbed from the twilight of their lives. Andrew Boryga, sun-sentinel.com, "Fear, sadness, loneliness: South Florida’s seniors spent most of 2020 locked away.," 1 Jan. 2021 Championed by Johnson, the deal was welcomed by the E.U. with a wistful relief — especially considering the alternative. NBC News, "The U.K.-E.U. trade deal might mean the British can stop talking about Brexit," 24 Dec. 2020 Everybody gets a couple of songs ranging from wistful ballads to jauntier yuletide selections. David L. Coddon, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Arts & Culture Newsletter: ‘A Berkley Hart Christmas’ is the holiday special we need right now," 24 Dec. 2020 Propelled by social media, the song debuted at No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100, as its wistful nostalgia resonated across genres. Melinda Newman, Billboard, "The Top 10 Country Songs of 2020: Staff Picks," 17 Dec. 2020 Remote learning is wiping out snow days, to the dismay of students and wistful parents. Alex Vadukul, New York Times, "David Hackett, Historian and Holocaust Expert, Dies at 80," 15 Dec. 2020 The 40th anniversary of New Orleans’ alt-weekly should be wistful about the past. Mark Karcher, NOLA.com, "Reflections on 40 years: thanks for the memories (we can remember)," 8 Dec. 2020

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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Time Traveler for wistful

Time Traveler

The first known use of wistful was in 1714

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Last Updated

11 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Wistful.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/wistful. Accessed 23 Jan. 2021.

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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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