Printable Version
Pronunciation: yêrn Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb

Meaning: 1. To have a strong, wistful longing, crave. 2. To be deeply moved, to sympathize, to grieve. 3. (Milk) To curdle or coagulate or cause to coagulate, especially in the production of cheese.

Notes: Today's Good Word is an indigenous English word, so it is subject only to English derivation. Someone who yearns in either of the first two senses is a yearner, who is yearnful. The action noun and (another) adjective is the present participle yearning. The difference between the two adjectives is that yearnful may mean "as though yearning", while yearning implies that we actually yearn.

In Play: This verb is most popularly used intransitively with the preposition for: "Luke yearned for his wife's return for years after she left him." However, it may be used with verbs, introduced by to: "His long disjointed speeches made his audiences yearn to go home." The second sense of this word is less often used but is still available: "He yearned over his friend Gretchen after her mother's death."

Word History: In Old English today's word was giernan, from Old Germanic gernjan "to desire", source also of German begehren "to desire" and gern "gladly, willingly". Gernjan was built on PIE gher-/ghor- "to long for, covet, yearn", source also, with the benefit of metathesis, of greedy and Greek chre "it is necessary". Greek charenai "to be glad, happy" originates in the same word, as does Icelandic gjarn "willing". (Patricia Waddy, a translator who is a newcomer to our series, saw the intrigue in today's Good Word and brought it to our attention.)

Dr. Goodword,

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