characterized by melancholy; longing; yearning.
pensive, especially in a melancholy way.

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

Synonyms for wistful

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for wistfulness

Contemporary Examples of wistfulness

  • But the words “responsible” and “Republican” are no longer typeable together except in moods of mockery, or at least wistfulness.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Obama's Budget Betrayal

    Eric Alterman

    February 15, 2011

  • That gave last night's dinner with Ahmadinejad an air of wistfulness tinged with growing fear.

    The Daily Beast logo
    My Dinner With Ahmadinejad

    Stephen Kinzer

    September 23, 2010

Historical Examples of wistfulness

  • There was a new atmosphere of wistfulness about the girl that made his heart ache.


    Mary Roberts Rinehart

  • There was a wistfulness about Tillie's mouth that set him wondering.


    Mary Roberts Rinehart

  • There had been a wistfulness, so rarely in Martin's voice, that Rose had detected it instantly.


    Mr. and Mrs. Haldeman-Julius

  • A new wistfulness was in her face, but it was not the wistfulness of hunger.

    White Fang

    Jack London

  • Vere smiled as she listened, but there was a wistfulness in her heart.

    A Spirit in Prison

    Robert Hichens

British Dictionary definitions for wistfulness



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 wistfulness



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