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Origin of wistful

1605–15; obsolete wist quiet, silent, attentive (variant of whist2) + -ful
Related formswist·ful·ly, adverbwist·ful·ness, nounun·wist·ful, adjectiveun·wist·ful·ly, adverbun·wist·ful·ness, noun

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

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British Dictionary definitions for wistfully


  1. sadly pensive, esp about something yearned for
Derived Formswistfully, adverbwistfulness, 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 wistfully



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