[roo-fuh l]


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

First recorded in 1175–1225, rueful is from the Middle English word reowful. See rue1, -ful
Related formsrue·ful·ly, adverbrue·ful·ness, nounhalf-rue·ful, adjectivehalf-rue·ful·ly, adverbun·rue·ful, adjectiveun·rue·ful·ly, adverbun·rue·ful·ness, noun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for rueful

Contemporary Examples of rueful

Historical Examples of rueful

  • Duncan drew a rueful face, contemplating the place where she had been.

    The Fortune Hunter

    Louis Joseph Vance

  • "You were right," affirmed Kirkwood, with a rueful and crooked smile.

    The Black Bag

    Louis Joseph Vance

  • You will do the anathema--rueful rather than enraged--from the tent opening.

    The Forest

    Stewart Edward White

  • Captain Elisha, with a rueful smile, pointed to the floral centerpiece.

    Cap'n Warren's Wards

    Joseph C. Lincoln

  • "Naturally, and with reason," was the answer, delivered with a rueful smile.

    The Snare

    Rafael Sabatini

British Dictionary definitions for rueful



feeling or expressing sorrow or repentancea rueful face
inspiring sorrow or pity
Derived Formsruefully, adverbruefulness, 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

Word Origin and History for rueful

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

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper