Definition of plaintive in English:



  • Sounding sad and mournful.

    ‘a plaintive cry’
    • ‘As the drums of war grow louder, so do the plaintive cries of the Irish neutrality lobby.’
    • ‘The lawns are luxurious, the sky is blue, and a lone hawk circles above, gives a plaintive cry and wheels away.’
    • ‘A mixture of the everyday and the grotesque, they read at times like plaintive notes from a boarding school, from a child who fears she has been forgotten.’
    • ‘I suppose it was because Wendy knew this that her last words to him were these rather plaintive ones.’
    • ‘The plaintive cry of kids playing in their streets and gardens for many years has been ‘We want our ball back.’’
    • ‘As I neared home I heard a weak and plaintive female voice coming from above saying ‘Excuse me’.’
    • ‘From a whooshing, gurgling still comes the ringing, plaintive and mournful.’
    • ‘I break away only to hear its plaintive cries through the rest of my visit.’
    • ‘The mood, carried by the winds and strings, is generally plaintive, even melancholy.’
    • ‘Played with a plaintive acoustic edge, it's even more heart-rending than the original.’
    • ‘Aside from resorting to plaintive cries and groans, in the first half there was little cause for the Tartan Army to exercise their vocal chords.’
    • ‘It was only when she started being plaintive and forlorn that we returned to her.’
    • ‘There are plaintive cries from MSPs about their workload, which, they argue, can only be sustained with their current numbers.’
    • ‘The songbirds had returned, but their calls sounded ever so plaintive and piteous.’
    • ‘The denials issuing from Santos are almost pathetic in their plaintive appeal to maintenance of the status quo.’
    • ‘This plaintive cry came from a number of sources, so we are attempting to provide enlightenment.’
    • ‘The plaintive call of the bird can be heard most evenings in the area.’
    • ‘My wife was expecting this to be boring but was pleasantly surprised which resulted in the plaintive cry of why wasn't science like that when she was at school.’
    • ‘The first tune was the Goltrai, a sad plaintive tune for all who died.’
    • ‘After making modest progress on the phone, he follows up with a plaintive letter laying out his case in detail.’
    mournful, sad, wistful, doleful, pathetic, pitiful, piteous, melancholy, melancholic, sorrowful, unhappy, wretched, woeful, grief-stricken, broken-hearted, heartbroken, desolate, heart-rending, forlorn, woebegone, disconsolate
    plangent, heartsick, dolorous
    View synonyms


Late Middle English: from Old French plaintif, -ive, from plainte lamentation (see plaint).