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[pleyn-tiv] /ˈpleɪn tɪv/
expressing sorrow or melancholy; mournful:
a plaintive melody.
Origin of plaintive
1350-1400; plaint + -ive; replacing Middle English plaintif < Middle French
Related forms
plaintively, adverb
plaintiveness, noun
Can be confused
plaintiff, plaintive.
wistful, sorrowful, sad.
happy, joyful. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for plaintive
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • The airs generally are plaintive and monotonous, and have a sad and weary sound.

    The Women of the Arabs Henry Harris Jessup
  • She clasped her hands, suddenly carrying her urgency to plaintive entreaty.

    Alice Adams Booth Tarkington
  • It becomes dull instead of bright, or plaintive instead of triumphant.

    William Blake Irene Langridge
  • "It is you, Caron," he murmured in that plaintive voice of his.

    The Trampling of the Lilies Rafael Sabatini
  • When several are paddling in a canoe, they occasionally chant a monotonous and plaintive song.

    The Malay Archipelago Alfred Russell Wallace
British Dictionary definitions for plaintive


expressing melancholy; mournful
Derived Forms
plaintively, adverb
plaintiveness, noun
Word Origin
C14: from Old French plaintif grieving, from plainteplaint
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for plaintive

late 14c., "lamenting," from Old French plaintif "complaining; wretched, miserable," from plainte (see plaint). Sense of "mournful, sad" first recorded 1570s. Related: Plaintively; plaintiveness.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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