Longing. What an odd word. A strong, persistent desire for something, especially something that is distant or unattainable. A yearning. How did the word that we use to describe a physical property, as in “one meter long”, come to be synonymous with desire, as in “I long for your touch?” No wonder people have trouble learning English!
The two meanings grew up together about 1,100 years ago. There were cognates (similar words) in most of the other contemporary Germanic languages. So it seems like everybody was working on this relationship between a physical property and strong desire.
Perhaps they needed to equate a desire that they were willing to wait for with the feeling they had while waiting. Or maybe they needed to express what they were willing to do to achieve something, as in “he went to great lengths to ease his longing.” Or, when a loved one was far away, the feeling that the distance caused.
Anyway, a longing, or longing for, is here to stay, at least for today. Who knows, maybe in another millennium we will have given it another meaning. In the meantime, I’ll long for you as long as it takes for this longing to be fulfilled, as long as I can, since I’m not long for this world!
I’m longing to know, was that sentence too long?