Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • adj. Full of wishful yearning.
  • adj. Pensively sad; melancholy.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. full of yearning or longing
  • adj. sad and thoughtful

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Longing; wishful; desirous.
  • adj. Full of thought; eagerly attentive; meditative; musing; pensive; contemplative.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Silent; hushed; standing in mute attention.
  • Full of thoughts; contemplative; musing; pensive.
  • Wishful; longing.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adj. showing pensive sadness

Etymologies

From obsolete wistly, intently.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth 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 → *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. (Wiktionary)

Examples

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