Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Wistful


The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day is wistful. Read on for what it means, how it’s used, and more.

What It Means

To be wistful is to be full of or to inspire yearning or desire tinged with melancholyWistful can also mean “suggestive of sad thoughtfulness.”

// As the car pulled away, Lea cast one last wistful glance at the house where she’d spent so many happy years.

WISTFUL in Context

“Josh Tillman, better known by stage name Father John Misty, dives headlong into big-band jazz on his sumptuous and melancholy fifth album [Chloë and the Next 20th Century]. With honeyed vocals and a potent dose of gallows humor, the shape-shifting crooner is reborn as a Sinatra-style lounge act, weaving wistful tales of heartache and tragedy over lush orchestrations.” — Patrick Ryan, USA Today, 30 Dec. 2022

Did You Know?

We see you there, dear reader, gazing silently up at the moon, heart aching to know the history of wistful, as if it could be divined on the lunar surface. And we’d like to ease your melancholy by telling you that the knowledge you seek—nay, pine for—is closer at hand. But the etymology of wistful, while intriguing, is not entirely clear. It’s thought that the word is a combination of wistly, a now-obsolete word meaning “intently” and, perhaps, the similar-sounding wishfulWistly, in turn, may have come from whistly, an old term meaning “silently” or “quietly.” What’s more certain is that our modern wistful is a great word to describe someone full of pensive yearning, or something inspiring such yearning.

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