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

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 The letter’s tone is more wistful than hostile, reading almost like a breakup note. Zack Beauchamp, Vox, "Read: Trump’s letter to Kim Jong Un canceling the North Korea summit," 24 May 2018 Holding it all together is his voice-over narration: always intelligent and thoughtful, sometimes wistful, occasionally navel-gazing annoying. Mark Feeney, BostonGlobe.com, "Looking back on the upheaval of the ’60s," 15 May 2018 The passage of a decade allows for humorous perspective, too, as the characters are now more observers, sometimes wistful, of hip New York culture, rather than central players. Bill Keveney, USA TODAY, "Why familiar friends make TV's remake obsession less annoying," 24 Apr. 2018 The sound is classic Britpop, from the wistful pining of the vocals to a bassline that echoes the mid-‘60s Kinks. 1. Ed Masley, azcentral, "Best World Cup songs of all time, from Ricky Martin and Shakira to 'Three Lions'," 27 June 2018 This triggered some wistful reminiscing from his dad, and gave me some really great insight into the family and their situation. Andrew Webster, The Verge, "The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit has me so excited for Life is Strange 2," 26 June 2018 Buy Photo Amid songs and signs, with cheers, jeers and wistful words, the School Reform Commission took its final public actions Thursday night, capping 17 tumultuous years of governing the Philadelphia School District. Philly.com, "6,019 days after the SRC first convened, a final meeting," 21 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

16 Sep 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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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).


a state of commotion or excitement

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