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 After a generation of war and discord, the French might have been wistful for the old days as an abstraction, but as a day-to-day reality, not so much. Brian T. Allen, National Review, "Art for Sale in Maastricht: Quality, Quality, Quality," 11 Mar. 2020 The Daily Show's Trevor Noah, going audience-less Monday, sang a wistful farewell song for Thursday's crowd. TheWeek, "Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Fallon, and Seth Meyers pan Trump's big coronavirus speech to empty theaters," 13 Mar. 2020 As solo artists, Brady and Les have followed more direct impulses, creating wistful, experimental pop and hip-hop. Carrie Battan, The New Yorker, "100 gecs’ Musical Scrap Yard," 13 Jan. 2020 The early Safdie films were nearly twee, because the main characters tended to be wistful and a little restless. Kelefa Sanneh, The New Yorker, "The Safdie Brothers’ Full-Immersion Filmmaking," 9 Dec. 2019 And Ross isn’t the only one getting wistful about saying goodbye to the 13RW journey. De Elizabeth, Teen Vogue, "“13 Reasons Why” Has Officially Wrapped Filming," 21 Dec. 2019 The potent mix of wistful nostalgia, unvarnished sentimentality and daydreamy optimism articulated the hopes and anxieties of war-weary soldiers and citizens alike. Jordan Runtagh, PEOPLE.com, "Bing Crosby's 'White Christmas': The Poignant Story Behind the Enduring Holiday Classic," 22 Nov. 2019 Magic is still found throughout Virtue and Vengeance, but the sense of wide-eyed wonder present in Blood and Bone feels wistful this time around. Megan Ditrolio, Marie Claire, "Tomi Adeyemi Makes Magic. Again.," 3 Dec. 2019 Another noticeable absence was $37 million for the popular Pure Michigan campaign, a gauzy series of commercials featuring picturesque Michigan vistas with wistful voice-overs by actor Tim Allen, a Michigan native. Kathleen Gray, Detroit Free Press, "No talk or money for fixing roads, or Pure Michigan campaign in tentative budget deal," 6 Dec. 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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Time Traveler for wistful

Time Traveler

The first known use of wistful was in 1714

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Last Updated

31 Mar 2020

Cite this Entry

“Wistful.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/wistful. Accessed 3 Apr. 2020.

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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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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

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