[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 ruefully

Contemporary Examples of ruefully

Historical Examples of ruefully

  • She drew a package from the locker and looked at it ruefully.


    Mary Roberts Rinehart

  • "I'm disappointed myself," he said, ruefully contemplating the letter.

    The Foolish Lovers

    St. John G. Ervine

  • "But some of Pepsy's ideas and plans have been very big, Walter," his aunt said ruefully.

    Pee-wee Harris

    Percy Keese Fitzhugh

  • "That isn't the way your mother looks at it," Adams said, ruefully.

    Alice Adams

    Booth Tarkington

  • He reflected for a moment, and then ruefully shook his head.

    Galusha the Magnificent

    Joseph C. Lincoln

British Dictionary definitions for ruefully



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 ruefully

early 13c., reufulike; see rueful + -ly (2).



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

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper