[ roo-fuhl ]
See synonyms for: ruefulruefulness on

  1. causing sorrow or pity; pitiable; deplorable: a rueful plight.

  2. feeling, showing, or expressing sorrow, repentance, or regret: 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

Other words from rueful

  • rue·ful·ly, adverb
  • rue·ful·ness, noun
  • half-rue·ful, adjective
  • un·rue·ful, adjective
  • un·rue·ful·ness, noun

Words Nearby rueful Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use rueful in a sentence

  • “You can pick which lines can come out,” Spitzer said with a rueful smile.

  • Gwynne regarded the thin sole of his house shoe with so rueful a countenance that the judge laughed outright.

    Ancestors | Gertrude Atherton
  • Pale, lean, taciturn and somewhat deaf, he bore much resemblance to the Knight of the rueful Countenance.

    Repertory Of The Comedie Humaine, Complete, A -- Z | Anatole Cerfberr and Jules Franois Christophe
  • By this time he was in a wholly different mood; angry with himself, and full of rueful thought about his wife.

    Marriage la mode | Mrs. Humphry Ward
  • At the rueful outcry, Clifford turned, just in time to see the bobbing bundle disappear in the muddy water.

  • In order to carry out my wife's orders, I had to disentangle Susan from Liosha's embrace and pack her off rueful to the nursery.

    Jaffery | William J. Locke

British Dictionary definitions for rueful


/ (ˈruːfʊl) /

  1. feeling or expressing sorrow or repentance: a rueful face

  2. inspiring sorrow or pity

Derived forms of rueful

  • 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