wistful

adjective wist·ful \ ˈwist-fəl \
Updated on: 8 Dec 2017

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

wistfully

play \ˈwist-fə-lē\ adverb

wistfulness

noun

wistful was our Word of the Day on 11/26/2016. Hear the podcast!

Examples of wistful in a Sentence

  1. She was wistful for a moment, then asked, “Do you remember the old playground?”.

  2. He had a wistful look on his face.

Recent Examples of wistful from the Web

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.

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.

Origin and Etymology of wistful

blend of wishful and obsolete English wistly intently


WISTFUL Defined for English Language Learners

wistful

adjective

Definition of wistful for English Language Learners

  • : 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


WISTFUL Defined for Kids

wistful

adjective wist·ful \ ˈwist-fəl \

Definition of wistful for Students

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

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


Seen and Heard

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

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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

WORD OF THE DAY

to provide what is needed to exist

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Intact Latin Quiz

  • roman-tablet
  • What did focus mean in Latin?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

TAKE THE QUIZ
Add Diction

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

TAKE THE QUIZ

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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