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From Middle English reuþful, reuthful, reowthful, equivalent to ruth +‎ -ful.


  • (file)
  • (UK, US) IPA(key): /ˈɹuːθ.fʊl/


ruthful (comparative more ruthful, superlative most ruthful)

  1. Full of sorrow; sorrowful; woeful; rueful.
  2. Causing pity; piteous.
    • c.1588-1593, William Shakespeare, The Lamentable Tragedy of Titus Andronicus, Act 5, Scene 1,
      An if it please thee! why, assure thee, Lucius, / 'Twill vex thy soul to hear what I shall speak; / For I must talk of murders, rapes, and massacres, / Acts of black night, abominable deeds, / Complots of mischief, treason, villainies, / Ruthful to hear, yet piteously perform'd:
    • 1808, Walter Scott, Marmion, Canto Fourth,
      ‘When last this ruthful month was come, / And in Linlithgow’s holy dome / The King, as wont, was praying;
  3. Full of ruth or pity; merciful; compassionate.

Usage notes[edit]

  • (causing pity): Unlike the other senses, which describe the person acting or the motivation behind an act, this sense is used to describe the effect of an action or circumstance. Thus, it is easily confused with the complementary term ruthless: a ruthless person (one lacking pity) may perform acts or bring about circumstances which are ruthful (cause or induce feelings of pity).



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