• synonyms


See more synonyms for plaintive on Thesaurus.com
  1. expressing sorrow or melancholy; mournful: a plaintive melody.
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Origin of plaintive

1350–1400; plaint + -ive; replacing Middle English plaintif < Middle French
Related formsplain·tive·ly, adverbplain·tive·ness, noun
Can be confusedplaintiff plaintive


See more synonyms for plaintive on Thesaurus.com
wistful, sorrowful, sad.


happy, joyful.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for plaintive

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • Yet the thought of her had persisted as a plaintive undertone through all the days after.

    The Spenders

    Harry Leon Wilson

  • Burke inquired in desperation before the plaintive outburst.

    Within the Law

    Marvin Dana

  • It is bitter in Baudelaire, sweet and plaintive in Lamartine, mystic in Verlaine.

    De Profundis

    Oscar Wilde

  • Yet he managed to utter a plaintive thought, showing at least that he realised his position.

    The Secret Agent

    Joseph Conrad

  • She clasped her hands, suddenly carrying her urgency to plaintive entreaty.

    Alice Adams

    Booth Tarkington

British Dictionary definitions for plaintive


  1. expressing melancholy; mournful
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Derived Formsplaintively, adverbplaintiveness, noun

Word Origin

C14: from Old French plaintif grieving, from plainte plaint
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

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.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper