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[roo-fuh l] /ˈru fəl/
causing sorrow or pity; pitiable; deplorable:
a rueful plight.
feeling, showing, or expressing sorrow or pity; mournful; doleful:
the rueful look on her face.
Origin of rueful
1175-1225; Middle English reowful. See rue1, -ful
Related forms
ruefully, adverb
ruefulness, noun
half-rueful, adjective
half-ruefully, adverb
unrueful, adjective
unruefully, adverb
unruefulness, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for rueful
  • Beneath the constant pep talks is a rueful sense of moral exhaustion.
  • Yet the movie and his performance have the retrospective air of rueful age.
  • His fiction runs the gamut, from rueful to riotously funny.
  • But handled with such humor, tenderness, and rueful wisdom that it's warming and enlightening rather than chilling or depressing.
  • The consent was rueful rather than cheerful, to be sure, but it was uncoerced consent.
British Dictionary definitions for rueful


feeling or expressing sorrow or repentance: a rueful face
inspiring sorrow or pity
Derived Forms
ruefully, adverb
ruefulness, noun
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 rueful

early 13c., rewfulle, reowfule, from rue (n.2) + -ful. Related: Ruefulness.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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