Ask Difference

Longing vs. Yearn — What's the Difference?

By Urooj Arif & Maham Liaqat — Updated on April 2, 2024
Longing is a deep, persistent desire for something or someone, often with a sense of sadness, while yearning is a strong, intense desire that is more active and sometimes more focused.
Longing vs. Yearn — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Longing and Yearn


Key Differences

Longing is characterized by a deep emotional state of desire, often accompanied by sadness or melancholy for something that is absent or unattainable. It implies a sustained sense of missing or craving that can be either specific or vague. Yearning, on the other hand, conveys a strong and intense desire or craving, often for something that is not present but deeply missed or wanted. It carries a sense of urgency and a proactive longing for something or someone.
Longing tends to be a more passive experience, where the desire is felt deeply but not necessarily acted upon. It is often associated with a nostalgic or bittersweet feeling, reflecting on what is missing from one's life. Whereas yearning is more likely to inspire action or a striving to obtain or achieve what is desired, indicating a more active state of desire.
The nature of longing allows it to be long-term and enduring, often lingering in the background of one’s emotions and thoughts. This enduring quality can affect one's overall mood and outlook on life. Yearning, while also potentially long-term, often has peaks of intensity that might motivate someone to pursue what they desire more aggressively.
Longing can sometimes be satisfied by the presence or attainment of the desired object or person, but it can also remain an unfulfilled need, contributing to a sense of incompleteness. Yearning, with its intensity, demands resolution or fulfillment, pushing individuals towards finding closure or satisfaction.
The experience of longing is universal, crossing cultural and linguistic boundaries, and can be directed towards a wide range of objects, ideals, or people. Yearning, equally universal, is often directed with more specificity, focusing on particular goals, outcomes, or relationships that hold significant personal value.

Comparison Chart


Deep, persistent desire with a sense of sadness.
Strong, intense desire with a sense of urgency.


More passive, with desires felt deeply.
More active, often motivating action or pursuit.


Tends to be long-term and enduring.
Can be long-term but characterized by peaks of intensity.


May not lead to fulfillment, contributing to a sense of loss.
Demands resolution, pushing towards fulfillment or closure.


Can be broad or vague, encompassing a wide range of desires.
More specific, focusing on particular goals or relationships.

Compare with Definitions


A deep, emotional desire for something absent or lost.
She felt a profound longing for her childhood home.


To have a strong, intense desire or craving for something.
She yearned for adventure beyond her small town.


A persistent yearning often tinged with sadness.
The soldier looked at the sky with longing for peace.


To feel a deep longing especially for something unattainable.
He yearned for her love, despite knowing it was impossible.


An enduring wish for reunion or reconnection.
His heart was filled with longing for his distant family.


To desire strongly or persistently.
She yearned to see her family after years abroad.


A melancholic desire for something unattainable.
There was a lingering longing in her voice for days long past.


To be filled with compassion or a gentle longing.
He yearned to help those in need, dedicating his life to service.


A deep-seated craving for fulfillment or completeness.
He experienced a deep longing for artistic expression.


To express an earnest desire or longing.
The poet’s words yearned for a world of peace and harmony.


A strong persistent yearning or desire, especially one that cannot be fulfilled.


To have a strong, often sad longing
Yearn for a better life.
Yearn to see an old friend.


Present participle of long


To feel deep pity, sympathy, or tenderness
Yearned over the child's fate.


An earnest and deep, not greatly passionate, but rather melancholic desire.


To have a strong desire for something or to do something; to long for or to do something.
All I yearn for is a simple life.


The buying of a financial instrument with the expectation that its value will rise


(specifically) To long for something in the past with melancholy or nostalgia.


An eager desire; a craving; a morbid appetite; an earnest wish; an aspiration.
Put on my crown; I haveimmortal longings in me.


(intransitive) Of music, words, etc.: to express strong desire or longing.


Prolonged unfulfilled desire or need


To have strong feelings of affection, love, sympathy, etc., toward someone.


To be distressed or pained; to grieve; to mourn.


(transitive) Often followed by out: to perform (music) which conveys or say (words) which express strong desire or longing.


To have a strong desire or longing (for something or to do something).


To cause (someone) to have strong feelings of affection, love, sympathy, etc.; also, to grieve or pain (someone).


Of milk: to curdle, especially in the cheesemaking process.


Of cheese: to be made from curdled milk.


To curdle (milk), especially in the cheesemaking process.


To make (cheese) from curdled milk.


A strong desire or longing; a yearning, a yen.


To pain; to grieve; to vex.
It yearns me not if men my garments wear.


To be pained or distressed; to grieve; to mourn.


To curdle, as milk.


To be filled with longing desire; to be harassed or rendered uneasy with longing, or feeling the want of a thing; to strain with emotions of affection or tenderness; to long; to be eager.
Joseph made haste; for his bowels did yearn upon his brother; and he sought where to weep.
Your mother's heart yearns towards you.


Desire strongly or persistently


Have a desire for something or someone who is not present;
She ached for a cigarette
I am pining for my lover


Have affection for; feel tenderness for

Common Curiosities

Can longing turn into yearning?

Yes, a passive longing can intensify into an active yearning, especially when the object of desire becomes more attainable or urgent.

Is yearning always more intense than longing?

Generally, yearning is considered more intense because it often leads to an active pursuit of the desired object or state.

What is the key difference between longing and yearning?

The key difference is that longing is a deep, persistent desire often with a melancholic touch, while yearning is a more intense, often active desire for something.

How do longing and yearning affect personal growth?

Both can be powerful motivators for personal growth, driving individuals to pursue their desires, overcome obstacles, and achieve fulfillment.

Can longing be a source of inspiration?

Absolutely, many artists, writers, and creators use their experiences of longing as a profound source of inspiration for their work.

How does one distinguish between longing and a passing desire?

Longing is deeper, more enduring, and often accompanied by emotional intensity, whereas passing desires are more fleeting and less intense.

How do cultures interpret longing and yearning differently?

Cultural narratives and values shape the interpretation of longing and yearning, influencing how they are expressed and perceived.

Can you experience longing without sadness?

While longing is often associated with sadness, it can also be felt as a deep, bittersweet desire without profound sadness.

Is it possible to yearn for something you've never experienced?

Yes, people can yearn for experiences, feelings, or connections they have never had, driven by an innate or cultivated desire.

Can yearning be satisfied?

Yes, yearning can be satisfied if the desired object, state, or connection is attained, though this might lead to new desires.

Does yearning have a positive or negative effect on mental health?

It can have both; positively motivating action and growth, or negatively leading to obsession or disappointment.

Can longing and yearning coexist for the same object or person?

Yes, one can experience both simultaneously, with longing reflecting a deep, persistent desire and yearning adding an element of intensity and urgency.

Is longing always related to loss?

Not always; longing can also stem from a deep desire for something that one has yet to experience.

What is the role of yearning in relationships?

Yearning can play a significant role in forming and deepening relationships, driving individuals to seek connection and intimacy.

How do you cope with unfulfilled longing or yearning?

Coping strategies might include redirection of focus, pursuit of personal growth, creative expression, or seeking closure.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Urooj Arif
Urooj is a skilled content writer at Ask Difference, known for her exceptional ability to simplify complex topics into engaging and informative content. With a passion for research and a flair for clear, concise writing, she consistently delivers articles that resonate with our diverse audience.
Co-written by
Maham Liaqat

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