plain·​tive | \ ˈplān-tiv How to pronounce plaintive (audio) \

Definition of plaintive

: expressive of suffering or woe : melancholy a plaintive sigh

Other Words from plaintive

plaintively adverb
plaintiveness noun

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Like its relative plangent, plaintive is often used to describe sad sounds. "A plaintive wail," for example, is a common use. Plaintive and plangent (along with relatives plaintiff and complain) ultimately derive from the Latin verb plangere, meaning "to strike," "to beat one's breast," or "to lament." This Latin verb led to plaint, an Anglo-French word (and now also an English word) meaning "lamentation." Plaint is the root of Middle English plaintif (meaning "lamenting" or "complaining"), which gave rise to plaintive as well as the noun plaintiff.

Examples of plaintive in a Sentence

We could hear the plaintive cry of a wounded animal in the woods. the puppy's plaintive expression after we put the toy away was rather amusing
Recent Examples on the Web Anonymity and secrecy are key to the work but also a source of deep melancholy, and the novel uncovers a plaintive connection between artistic transcendence and personal loneliness. Sam Sacks, WSJ, 13 May 2022 Ahmad al-Hamwi, whose brother died on the boat along with his two children, had one, plaintive demand: that religious leaders pressure the prime minister to do whatever was necessary to recover the victims. Washington Post, 6 May 2022 Slatkin’s score is distinct and fitting, driving the documentary with detective-flick tension, plaintive heartache and shimmering hope as needed. Brian Mccollum, Detroit Free Press, 27 Apr. 2022 And yet there was something particularly plaintive in Le Pen’s notification. New York Times, 31 Mar. 2022 The crash occurred on a Monday, just after 3 a.m. A revving car engine, tires crunching on gravel and plaintive cries for help could be heard in the dark of night, a camper near the crash site recalled. Kc Baker,, 26 Mar. 2022 His plaintive honesty strikes a chord in the Ukrainian people and . . . David Remnick, The New Yorker, 5 Mar. 2022 In a plaintive final appeal, Zelensky spoke directly to the Russian people, hours before the attack. Robin Wright, The New Yorker, 24 Feb. 2022 These heart-to-heart conversations, sometimes scored by the music of a plaintive piano or accompanied by clients’ tears, take on an air of solemn ceremony. Megan Garber, The Atlantic, 7 Feb. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'plaintive.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of plaintive

circa 1570, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for plaintive

Middle English plaintif grieving, from Anglo-French pleintif, plaintif, from plaint

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Time Traveler for plaintive

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The first known use of plaintive was circa 1570

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Dictionary Entries Near plaintive

plain tire


plain turkey

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Last Updated

16 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Plaintive.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for plaintive


plain·​tive | \ ˈplān-tiv How to pronounce plaintive (audio) \

Kids Definition of plaintive

: showing or suggesting sadness : mournful a plaintive sigh

More from Merriam-Webster on plaintive

Nglish: Translation of plaintive for Spanish Speakers


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