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[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.
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 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. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for yearn
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • All my life hangs on that, I can do nothing else but pray for that—pray for it and yearn for it!

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

    The Woman-Haters Joseph C. Lincoln
  • The laborer may be led to despise his well-paid tasks and yearn for their ease, and thus become indolent.

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

  • Oh, you cannot guess how I long, how I yearn, to view that child under the holy fostering eyes of a woman.

    What Will He Do With It, Complete Edward Bulwer-Lytton
British Dictionary definitions for yearn


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 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.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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