Background WRKY proteins play a vital role in the plants response to different stresses, growth and development. Studies of WRKY proteins have been mainly focused on model plant Arabidopsis and a few other vegetable plants. However, the systematical study of eggplant WRKY transcription factor superfamily is scarce. Methods Bioinformatics has been used to identify and characterize the eggplant WRKY gene family. For the exploration of the differentially expressed WRKY genes, two cultivars with different cold-tolerance were used. Finally, we performed a virus-induced gene silencing (VIGS) experiment to verify the functions of SmWRKY26 and SmWRKY32. Results Fifty eight (58) genes encoding eggplant WRKY proteins were identified through searching the eggplant genome. Eggplant WRKY proteins could be classified into three groups or seven subgroups in accordance with other plants. WRKY variants were identified from the eggplant. Gene structure analysis showed that the number of intron in eggplant WRKY family was from 0 to 11, with an average of 4.4. Conserved motif analysis suggested that WRKY DNA-binding domain was conserved in eggplant WRKY proteins. Furthermore, RNA-seq data showed that WRKY genes were differentially expressed in eggplant response to cold stress. By using VIGS, the two differentially expressed genes-SmWRKY26 and SmWRKY32 were verified in response to cold stress. Discussions This study provides a foundation for further exploring the functions of WRKY proteins in eggplant response to stresses and eggplant genetic improvement in stresses.