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verb (used without object)
  1. to have an earnest or strong desire; long: to yearn for a quiet vacation.
  2. to feel tenderness; be moved or attracted: They yearned over their delicate child.
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Origin of yearn

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 formsyearn·er, nounun·yearned, adjective


See more synonyms for on Thesaurus.com
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.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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Examples from the Web for yearn

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • I like to have a chance of refusing an invitation I yearn for, and then be forced to accept.

  • Others may yearn for the strenuous life, but not your humble servant.

    The Woman-Haters

    Joseph C. Lincoln

  • She yearned as only a mother can yearn for the warm caresses of her children.

  • He had yearned for it, as a child might yearn for a plaything.

  • If it should not lead to something further; but I do yearn to repay her.

    Tony Butler

    Charles James Lever

British Dictionary definitions for yearn


verb (intr)
  1. (usually foll by for or after or an infinitive) to have an intense desire or longing (for); pine (for)
  2. to feel tenderness or affection
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Derived Formsyearner, 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

Word Origin and History for yearn


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.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper