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

Marshall reconnected with several teammates, but came away somewhat wistful. Geoff Baker, The Seattle Times, "Poulsbo resident, former defenseman Bert Marshall is keeping an eye on Seattle’s NHL decisions," 25 Mar. 2019 His former photography studio manager, Vasilios Zatse, recalls that Penn was wistful about fellow photographer Cartier-Bresson’s decision to pursue a career in painting and drawing. Lesley M. M. Blume, WSJ, "Master Photographer Irving Penn’s First Major Painting Exhibition: An Exclusive Look," 6 Sep. 2018 Sequels have a poor track record to begin with, to say nothing of sequels to films with endings as perfect and wistful as Wreck-It Ralph’s. Todd Vanderwerff, Vox, "Why do so many animated films have great stories? One secret: storyboarding.," 20 Nov. 2018 The Netflix movie is deservedly getting a ton of positive press for its diverse cast, its wistful and sweet depiction of high-school love, and thoughtful story about tricky family dynamics. Allie Gemmill, Teen Vogue, ""To All the Boys I've Loved Before" Fans Are Signing a Petition for a Sequel," 29 Aug. 2018 Featuring soul legend Donny Hathaway on the keys, the song is wistful and airy, revealing a sensual side of Franklin. Naima Cochrane, Vox, "Aretha Franklin’s long reign as the Queen of Soul, explained in 12 performances," 16 Aug. 2018 This deeply wistful question has informed much of the Wooster Group’s work during the past decade or so. New York Times, "Review: Conjuring the Ghosts of Theater Past in ‘A Pink Chair’," 10 May 2018 The pencil-sketch-style animation brings with it an appropriately wistful feeling, and the words are certainly from the heart. Mike Scott, NOLA.com, "Oscar-nominated shorts 2018 movie review: From Kobe to Emmett Till," 14 Feb. 2018 There are lovely compositional touches: the quartet-like writing for strings early in the first piece; the wistful woodwinds of the pastoral second; the catchy, accented rhythms and expansive string themes of the Tchaikovsky-like third piece. Barbara Jepson, WSJ, "Uncertain Tempo," 31 Dec. 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







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Last Updated

1 Apr 2019

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Time Traveler for wistful

The first known use of wistful was in 1714

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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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More from Merriam-Webster on wistful

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with wistful

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for wistful

Spanish Central: Translation of wistful

Nglish: Translation of wistful for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of wistful for Arabic Speakers

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).


to mark by some ceremony or observation

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