Pronunciation Verb

yearn (yearns, present participle yearning; past and past participle yearned)

  1. (intransitive) To long, have a strong desire (for something).
    All I yearn for is a simple life.
    • 1897, Rudyard Kipling, Captains Courageous, Chapter 10,
      What his soul yearned after was control of his father’s newly purchased sailing-ships.
    • 1911, Jack London, “Just Meat” in When God Laughs, and Other Stories, New York: Macmillan, p. 125,
      And Jim supported his twitching body by holding on to the sink, the while he yearned toward the yellowish concoction that stood for life.
    • 1915, Lucy Maud Montgomery, Anne of the Island, Chapter 5,
      “ […] Anne, please tell me over again that you like me a little bit. I yearn to hear it.”
    • 1971, E. M. Forster, Maurice (novel), Penguin, 1972, Chapter 40, p. 181,
      […] all that night his body yearned for Alec’s, despite him.
  2. (intransitive) To long for something in the past with melancholy, nostalgically.
    • 1971, Iris Murdoch, An Accidental Man, New York: Viking, 1972, p. 420,
      If I don’t go now, thought Charlotte, I shall have lost a chance which I shall eternally regret and yearn after.
    • 2002, J. M. Coetzee, Youth: Scenes from Provincial Life II, London: Vintage, Chapter 17, p. 137,
      Having shaken the dust of the ugly new South Africa from his feet, is he yearning for the South Africa of the old days, when Eden was still possible?
  3. (intransitive, dated) To have strong feelings of love, sympathy, affection, etc. (toward someone).
    • 1611, King James Version of the Bible, Book of Genesis 43.30,
      And Joseph made haste; for his bowels did yearn upon his brother: and he sought where to weep; and he entered into his chamber, and wept there.
    • 1873, Charles Reade, A Simpleton, Chapter 12,
      Oh, it was a pretty sight to see this modest young creature, little more than a child herself, anticipating maternity, but blushing every now and then, and looking askant at her lord and master. How his very bowels yearned over her!
    • 1880, Henry Adams, Democracy: An American Novel, New York: Henry Holt, Chapter 3, p. 52,
      […] Mr. Ratcliffe’s heart yearned toward the charming girl quite with the sensations of a father, or even of an elder brother.
    • 1883, Olive Schreiner, The Story of an African Farm, Chapter 2.V,
      But supper had cheered Tant Sannie, who found it impossible longer to maintain that decorous silence, and whose heart yearned over the youth.
  4. (intransitive, obsolete) To be pained or distressed; to grieve; to mourn.
    • circa 1598 William Shakespeare, Henry V (play), Act II, Scene 3,
      […] Falstaff he is dead,
      And we must yearn therefore.
    • 1760, Laurence Sterne, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, London: R. & J. Dodsley, Volume 2, Chapter 17, p. 144,
      My father’s and my uncle Toby’s hearts yearn’d with sympathy for the poor fellow’s distress […]
  5. (transitive, obsolete) To pain; to grieve; to vex.
    • circa 1598 William Shakespeare, Henry V (play), Act IV, Scene 3,
      It yearns me not if men my garments wear;
    • circa 1600 William Shakespeare, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Act III, Scene 5,
      Well, she laments, sir, for it, that it would yearn your heart to see it.
    • 1833, William Hamilton Maxwell, The Field Book: Or, Sports and Pastimes of the United Kingdom, London: Effingham Wilson, “Badger-Hunting,” p. 31,
      When the badger finds that the terriers yearn him in his burrow, he will stop the hole between him and the terriers […]
    • 1835, Leigh Hunt, “A Pinch of Snuff,” Leigh Hunt’s London Journal, Volume I, No. 13, p. 98, 25 June, 1834,
      Wants to sneeze and cannot do it!
      Now it yearns me, thrills me, stings me,
      Now with rapturous torment wrings me,
      Now says “Sneeze, you fool; get through it.”
Translations Translations Verb

yearn (yearns, present participle yearning; past and past participle yearned)

  1. (Scotland) To curdle, as milk.

yearn (plural yearns)

  1. (nonstandard) Yearning; yen.
    • 1917 August 12, "A YEARN FOR PEACE; Pan-Germanism Denounced ↗" Sunday Times (Perth, WA) p.1
    • 1979 Norman Mailer, The Executioner's Song
      Gibbs now said he wasn't going to pull any punches with Gary when he knew how jealous a man could get, so he also wanted to tell him that Phil Hansen was reputed to have a yearn for attractive ladies.
    • 2010 Frank Buchmann-Moller Someone to Watch Over Me: The Life and Music of Ben Webster (University of Michigan Press) ISBN 0472025988 p.57
      "After he had made a record date with us in 1935, I always had a yearn for Ben," he said years later.
    • 2014 February 13, AFP, [ "Why internet adultery numbers are soaring"] New Zealand Herald
      "My guess, however, is that it has because there are many people who have a yearn for sex outside their relationship but wouldn't have the slightest idea about how to do it or do it safely," Prof Schwartz added.

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