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[yur-ning] /ˈyɜr nɪŋ/
deep longing, especially when accompanied by tenderness or sadness:
a widower's yearning for his wife.
an instance of such longing.
Origin of yearning
before 900; Middle English; Old English gierninge. See yearn, -ing1
Related forms
yearningly, adverb
unyearning, adjective
Synonym Study
1. See desire.


[yurn] /yɜrn/
verb (used without object)
to have an earnest or strong desire; long:
to yearn for a quiet vacation.
to feel tenderness; be moved or attracted:
They yearned over their delicate child.
before 900; Middle English yernen, Old English giernan derivative of georn eager; akin to Old Norse girna to desire, Greek chaírein to rejoice, Sanskrit háryati (he) desires
Related forms
yearner, noun
unyearned, adjective
1. Yearn, long, hanker, pine all mean to feel a powerful desire for something. Yearn stresses the depth and passionateness of a desire: to yearn to get away and begin a new life; to yearn desperately for recognition. Long implies a wholehearted desire for something that is or seems unattainable: to long to relive one's childhood; to long for the warmth of summer. Hanker suggests a restless or incessant craving to fulfill some urge or desire: to hanker for a promotion; to hanker after fame and fortune. Pine adds the notion of physical or emotional suffering as a result of the real or apparent hopelessness of one's desire: to pine for one's native land; to pine for a lost love. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for yearning
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • But the yearning towards the parent country is too strong to be overcome.

    In the Heart of Vosges Matilda Betham-Edwards
  • His heart ached with yearning more intense than any that he could recall.

    Casanova's Homecoming Arthur Schnitzler
  • Besides, is not the yearning for the divine simply a desire to behold the Divinity?

  • He glanced across the river as though he were yearning to accept the invitation.

    The Law-Breakers Ridgwell Cullum
  • There's something in me that—I think only a son of his could have satisfied my yearning.

    A Spirit in Prison Robert Hichens
British Dictionary definitions for yearning


an intense or overpowering longing, desire, or need; craving
Derived Forms
yearningly, adverb


verb (intransitive)
usually foll by for or after or an infinitive. to have an intense desire or longing (for); pine (for)
to feel tenderness or affection
Derived Forms
yearner, noun
Word Origin
Old English giernan; related to Old Saxon girnian, Old Norse girna, Gothic gairnjan, Old High German gerōn to long for, Sanskrit haryati he likes
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for yearning



Old English geornan (Mercian), giernan (West Saxon), giorna (Northumbrian), from Proto-Germanic *gernijanan (cf. Gothic gairnjan "to desire," German begehren "to desire"), from *gernaz (cf. Old High German gern, Old Norse gjarn "desirous," Old English georn "eager, desirous," German gern "gladly, willingly"), from PIE root *gher- "to like, want" (see hortatory). Related: Yearned; yearning.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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