wist·​ful ˈwist-fəl How to pronounce wistful (audio)
: full of yearning or desire tinged with melancholy
also : inspiring such yearning
a wistful memoir
: musingly sad : pensive
a wistful glance
wistfully adverb
wistfulness noun

Did you know?

Wistful Has a Wishful History

We see you there, dear reader, gazing silently up at the moon, heart aching to know the history of wistful, as if it could be divined on the lunar surface. And we’d like to ease your melancholy by telling you that the knowledge you seek—nay, pine for—is closer at hand. But the etymology of wistful, while intriguing, is not entirely clear. It’s thought that the word is a combination of wistly, a now-obsolete word meaning “intently” and, perhaps, the similar-sounding wishful. Wistly, in turn, may have come from whistly, an old term meaning “silently” or “quietly.” What’s more certain is that our modern wistful is a great word to describe someone full of pensive yearning, or something inspiring such yearning.

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 Independence Day Weekend is a sentimental time, an air of wistful uncertainty on the back of my neck this year. Ben Crandell, Sun Sentinel, 4 July 2024 Louis, who observes humanity from a wistful remove and wrestles with his predatory instincts, is as consummate a Romantic hero as his antecedents in high literature. Judy Berman, TIME, 1 July 2024 This reminds me how massively popular YouTube cooking channels such as Li Ziqi and De Mi Rancho a Tu Cocina prepare regional foods in rural settings in a way that appeals to wistful urban populations in those countries. Hazlitt, 26 June 2024 In telling their story, the film wrestles with notions of captivity, personal and political relationships, and the wistful longing for peace in a region plunged into war. Patrick Hipes, Deadline, 20 June 2024 See all Example Sentences for wistful 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'wistful.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


blend of wishful and obsolete English wistly intently

First Known Use

1714, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of wistful was in 1714


Dictionary Entries Near wistful

Cite this Entry

“Wistful.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/wistful. Accessed 13 Jul. 2024.

Kids Definition


wist·​ful ˈwist-fəl How to pronounce wistful (audio)
: feeling or showing a timid desire
a wistful look on his face
wistfully adverb
wistfulness noun
Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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