Definition of rueful in US English:

rueful

adjective

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

    ‘she gave a rueful grin’
    • ‘A rueful smile crosses Weir's face as he remembers such descriptions.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Now they have nothing but rueful regrets accompanied by doubts about how much longer this partly ageing side can remain together.’
    • ‘He shook his head slowly, with a rueful smile on his face.’
    • ‘That conflict produces the rueful sense of disappointment that all of Ford's characters share, and that he illuminates so well.’
    • ‘She exhaled, letting a bit of the tension flow out of her, and gave me a rueful grin.’
    • ‘His rueful recollections shed light on an often-perplexing artistic career, one that has left him looking distinctly battle-weary.’
    • ‘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 French referendum result should raise rueful smiles’
    • ‘What you lose, inevitably, is Orwell's peculiar tone of voice: rueful, ironic, honest, self-deprecating.’
    • ‘There is a rueful self-deprecation at play here, at odds with a quiet desperation.’
    • ‘She nodded and he turned to Holly with a rueful smile.’
    • ‘He looked up and found Alex staring at him, a strange, almost rueful grin on his face.’
    • ‘He was dignified and rueful, but it was hard to imagine that it had come as a dreadful personal blow.’
    • ‘The island's startling natural beauty can be a rueful reminder of what once was, up and down the Caribbean archipelago.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Kay nodded to Ryan with a rueful grin upon his lips as he slipped out of his seat and moved towards the ladies.’
    • ‘She gave her a rueful grin and hurried out the front door, nearly slamming into Kyle.’
    • ‘A slow and rueful smile played on the old man's lips.’
    • ‘When nothing happened, she turned, and gave a rueful little shrug.’
    sorrowful, regretful, apologetic, sorry, remorseful, shamefaced, sheepish, hangdog, contrite, repentant, penitent, conscience-stricken, self-reproachful
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Origin

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

Pronunciation

rueful

/ˈro͞ofəl//ˈrufəl/