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[wist-fuh l] /ˈwɪst fəl/
characterized by melancholy; longing; yearning.
pensive, especially in a melancholy way.
Origin of wistful
1605-15; obsolete wist quiet, silent, attentive (variant of whist2) + -ful
Related forms
wistfully, adverb
wistfulness, noun
unwistful, adjective
unwistfully, adverb
unwistfulness, noun
2. reflective, musing, meditative, forlorn. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for wistfulness
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • It begins with a sort of wistfulness, a sense of expansion follows, you go about all the time with your head in the clouds.

    The Master Mummer E. Phillips Oppenheim
  • When she looked again, his face had lost that smile for a kind of wistfulness.

    Beyond John Galsworthy
  • Lucine watched her with a wistfulness that softened to tenderness the faint lines of native selfishness about her mouth.

    Beatrice Leigh at College Julia Augusta Schwartz
  • The girl smiled curiously, and there was a trace of wistfulness in her eyes.

    The Cattle-Baron's Daughter Harold Bindloss
  • The wistfulness of his tone, of his looks, would have softened any heart that was not hard as stone.

    A Life Sentence Adeline Sergeant
  • There was a note of wistfulness in the musical voice as she asked the question.

    Making People Happy Thompson Buchanan
  • The tone was piteous in its wistfulness, and Hildegarde responded heartily.

    Hildegarde's Harvest Laura E. Richards
  • There was a wistfulness about Tillie's mouth that set him wondering.

    K Mary Roberts Rinehart
British Dictionary definitions for wistfulness


sadly pensive, esp about something yearned for
Derived Forms
wistfully, adverb
wistfulness, 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 wistfulness



1610s, "closely attentive," from obsolete wist "intent" (c.1500), of uncertain origin. Perhaps formed on the model of wishful. The meaning of "yearningly eager" is first recorded 1714. Related: Wistfully; wistfulness.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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