Definition of rueful in English:

rueful

adjective

  • Expressing sorrow or regret, especially in a wry or humorous way.

    ‘she gave a rueful grin’
    • ‘There is a rueful self-deprecation at play here, at odds with a quiet desperation.’
    • ‘Yet, as he travels from airport to morgue, waiting room to railway carriage, these bland modern spaces seem to tease out of him at last a rueful sense of guilt and blame.’
    • ‘Then, pint in hand, I make my way over to Clem with a rueful grin, preparing to tell him about my encounter with Don and Len.’
    • ‘He was dignified and rueful, but it was hard to imagine that it had come as a dreadful personal blow.’
    • ‘When nothing happened, she turned, and gave a rueful little shrug.’
    • ‘He looked up and found Alex staring at him, a strange, almost rueful grin on his face.’
    • ‘He shook his head slowly, with a rueful smile on his face.’
    • ‘What you lose, inevitably, is Orwell's peculiar tone of voice: rueful, ironic, honest, self-deprecating.’
    • ‘That conflict produces the rueful sense of disappointment that all of Ford's characters share, and that he illuminates so well.’
    • ‘Now they have nothing but rueful regrets accompanied by doubts about how much longer this partly ageing side can remain together.’
    • ‘Kay nodded to Ryan with a rueful grin upon his lips as he slipped out of his seat and moved towards the ladies.’
    • ‘She exhaled, letting a bit of the tension flow out of her, and gave me a rueful grin.’
    • ‘A rueful smile crosses Weir's face as he remembers such descriptions.’
    • ‘She nodded and he turned to Holly with a rueful smile.’
    • ‘An older and rueful prime minister may reflect that some of the optimism felt on that spring day in 1997 is still around, and maybe he can take some credit for that.’
    • ‘The island's startling natural beauty can be a rueful reminder of what once was, up and down the Caribbean archipelago.’
    • ‘A slow and rueful smile played on the old man's lips.’
    • ‘She gave her a rueful grin and hurried out the front door, nearly slamming into Kyle.’
    • ‘The French referendum result should raise rueful smiles’
    • ‘His rueful recollections shed light on an often-perplexing artistic career, one that has left him looking distinctly battle-weary.’
    sorrowful, regretful, apologetic, sorry, remorseful, shamefaced, sheepish, hangdog, contrite, repentant, penitent, conscience-stricken, self-reproachful
    woebegone, woeful, sad, melancholy, mournful
    compunctious
    View synonyms

Origin

Middle English (also in the sense ‘pitiable’): from the noun rue + -ful.

Pronunciation:

rueful

/ˈruːfʊl//ˈruːf(ə)l/