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

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 This tender, wistful song released in 2020 by This Is Us actress and singer Mandy Moore is perfect for that. Yaa Bofah, Good Housekeeping, 16 Sep. 2022 The first team-up between both acts, the track is both melancholic and wistful melodies that thrive on a slow tempo. Billboard Staff, Billboard, 16 Sep. 2022 Since it’s part of the human condition to complain about airports, some wistful New Yorkers are nostalgic for the leaks, birds and that Auntie Anne’s. Ben Cohen, WSJ, 15 Sep. 2022 Rupik’s work is simultaneously grotesque and charming, providing a playful, wistful texture. Katie Walsh, Los Angeles Times, 15 Sep. 2022 Somewhere on Earth 1 and in that timeline, Susan’s wistful grandfather awaits her return, which will never come about. Robert Lea, Popular Mechanics, 7 Sep. 2022 But many, wistful for the land they were forced to leave behind, say Afghanistan will always be home. Shannon K. Crawford, ABC News, 31 Aug. 2022 After some wistful reminiscences from his mother—intercut with footage from old family videos— a historian from the University of Atlanta helps provide context for the Atlanta that shaped the artist born Dominique Armani Jones. Will Dukes, Rolling Stone, 29 Aug. 2022 While leaving behind the old site, which had housed the club since 1972, is a bit wistful, the club is really excited about another feature of its new location. Shelley Jones, Chicago Tribune, 31 Aug. 2022 See More

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.

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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The first known use of wistful was in 1714

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Last Updated

20 Sep 2022

Cite this Entry

“Wistful.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/wistful. Accessed 30 Sep. 2022.

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More Definitions for wistful


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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