- The definition of wistful refers to being full of melancholy or yearning, or having a mournful or regretful longing.
An example of wistful is when you look back on your past and wish you had done something differently.
Origin of wistfulaltered (modeled on wishful) ; from earlier wistly, attentive
- Full of melancholy longing or wishful yearning: “She seemed wistful for the old days when I'd hung around her all the time” (David Huddle).
- Expressing sadness or yearning: “She saw the wisftul eyes grow yet more wistful, the lips curve to a pleading smile” (Dorothy Parker).
Origin of wistfulAlteration (influenced by wishful) of obsolete wistly, intently, perhaps from variant of whistly, whishtly, silently, from whist, silent, from whist, hush! (interjection calling for silence), from Middle English, of imitative origin.
(comparative more wistful, superlative most wistful)
Presumably from *whistful, from whist (“silent”) + -ful, based on older wistly. It is implausible that it derives from wishful, the required sound change being wishful → *wisful → wistful, and could not occur in Modern English, particularly not with wishful continuing in use. However, the sense of “longing” appears to be influenced by wishful, with wistful being an ambiguous poetic word.