Pining After: Definition, Meaning, and Origin

Last Updated on
September 24, 2023

When you're totally smitten by someone or something but can't have it, you might find yourself "pining after" that elusive desire. It's like craving chocolate cake when you're on a strict diet, except the emotional stakes are higher!

In short:

"Pining after" refers to deeply missing or yearning for someone or something that you can't have.

What Does "Pining After" Mean?

This phrase is used to describe a feeling of deep, often unrequited, longing for someone or something. The key aspect of "pining after" is that the object of affection is generally unattainable, at least for the moment.

  • The idiom is usually associated with romantic yearning but can also refer to a deep desire for something material or abstract.
  • It often involves a sense of sadness or melancholy.
  • "Pining away" is a variation that emphasizes the wasting, diminishing aspect of the pining.

Though you might be plugging along trying to distract yourself, your mind keeps drifting back to what you're pining after.

Where Does "Pining After" Come From?

The term "pining" is derived from the Old English word "pinian," which meant to torture or cause to suffer. The modern usage has been traced back to literary works from as early as the 16th century.

Historical Usage

"Shall I, wasting in despair, Die because a woman's fair?"

- George Wither, 17th-century English poet and pamphleteer.

This ancient connection tends to call attention to the emotional weight the term has carried through the centuries.

10 Examples of "Pining After" in Sentences

Here are some sentences that illustrate the usage of the idiom in various contexts.

  • She spent years pining after him, only to find out he was never interested.
  • Ever since he moved away, he's been pining after his hometown.
  • Pining after that job won't get you anywhere; you need to take the initiative.
  • You'll never appreciate the present if you keep pining after the past.
  • I had been pining after a vacation for months, and on one fine day, I finally booked it.
  • He was pining after her so much that he wrote a song about her.
  • She's been pining after him for months, all while keeping an eye on his social media updates.
  • I've been pining after that car for years, but it's way too expensive.
  • She has been pining after her old friends ever since she moved.
  • It's fine by me if you want to spend time pining after unreachable dreams, but don't expect me to join you.

Examples of "Pining After" in Pop Culture

Here are some instances where the term "pining after" has made its appearance in popular culture.

  • In the TV series "Friends," Ross spends the first season pining after Rachel.
  • In the movie "The Notebook," Noah is seen pining after Allie when they are separated.
  • The song "Love Story" by Taylor Swift has lyrics that embody the concept of pining after a love interest.
  • In the book "Pride and Prejudice," Mr. Darcy pines after Elizabeth Bennet.
  • Several episodes of "The Simpsons" feature Moe Szyslak pining after Marge Simpson.

Synonyms: Other/Different Ways to Say "Pining After"

There are various other ways to convey the same or similar meaning:

  • Yearning for
  • Longing for
  • Aching for
  • Craving
  • Missing

Each of these expressions has its nuances, but they can often substitute for "pining after."

10 Frequently Asked Questions About "Pining After"

  • What does the term mean?

The term refers to a strong emotional yearning or longing for someone or something. It conveys the idea that you miss that person or thing so much that it occupies your thoughts frequently.

  • Where did the term originate from?

The term has its roots in older English literature and draws from the word "pine," which is a verb for suffering or wasting away. The phrase implies not just a desire but a sort of emotional suffering because of that desire.

  • How is the phrase commonly used?

The phrase is commonly used in everyday conversation and literature to describe a profound sense of yearning or longing for something or someone. It often carries a sentimental or emotional weight.

  • Is the term always romantic?

No, while it is often used in a romantic context, it can also refer to a longing for other things, like a place, an object, or even a period of time.

  • Can the term be used humorously?

Yes, some people use the phrase in a lighter, more humorous context to emphasize that they're missing something but without the emotional heaviness often associated with it.

  • How do various cultures perceive this term?

While the phrase is primarily used in English-speaking cultures, the emotion it describes is universal. Different cultures have their own idioms or phrases that convey a similar sentiment.

  • Is the term used in literature?

Yes, the term is often employed in literature to convey deep emotional states of characters. It can serve as a powerful tool to communicate sentiments that might be difficult to express otherwise.

  • Can the term have negative implications?

Yes, if someone is said to be pining after something or someone to an extreme extent, it could imply a lack of focus on other important aspects of life.

  • How do you use the term in a sentence?

You can use the term as a verb in a sentence, for example: "She's been pining after him for years." Alternatively, you can use it as part of a larger expression to convey the same idea.

  • Is the term frequently used in pop culture?

Yes, the term is prevalent in movies, songs, and TV shows, often used to depict characters who are yearning for love or a different state of being. It's a phrase that most people are familiar with because of its frequent use in various forms of media.

Final Thoughts About "Pining After"

In the grand tapestry of language, idioms like "pining after" paint vivid imagery that speaks to universal human experiences. The term refers to an intense emotional yearning or longing for someone or something.

  • It has historical roots, making its presence felt in old English literature.
  • While often considered in a romantic context, the term's usage is versatile.
  • The phrase finds relevance in various cultural expressions and media, confirming its universal applicability.

Idioms like "pining after" bring depth and color to our daily communications. They offer a shorthand for complex feelings and situations, adding layers to our conversations and writings. They're more than just phrases; they're windows into our collective thoughts and feelings.

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