An example of wistful is when you look back on your past and wish you had done something differently.
Origin of wistful
- Alteration (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
From American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition
- 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 â†’ *wisful â†’ 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.