han·​ker ˈhaŋ-kər How to pronounce hanker (audio)
hankered; hankering ˈhaŋ-k(ə-)riŋ How to pronounce hanker (audio)

intransitive verb

: to have a strong or persistent desire : yearn
often used with for or after
hankerer noun
Choose the Right Synonym for hanker

long, yearn, hanker, pine, hunger, thirst mean to have a strong desire for something.

long implies a wishing with one's whole heart and often a striving to attain.

longed for some rest

yearn suggests an eager, restless, or painful longing.

yearned for a stage career

hanker suggests the uneasy promptings of unsatisfied appetite or desire.

always hankering for money

pine implies a languishing or a fruitless longing for what is impossible.

pined for a lost love

hunger and thirst imply an insistent or impatient craving or a compelling need.

hungered for a business of his own
thirsted for power

Example Sentences

By the middle of the winter, they were hankering for a warm day.
Recent Examples on the Web In the 1960s and 1970s — the heyday of the sort of bipartisan Senate compromise that Biden often seems to hanker for — election turnout dropped, and many people complained that there was little difference between the two parties. Los Angeles Times, 15 Oct. 2021 But many in the north still hanker for autonomy, as promised by amendments to the constitution adopted in 1987 but never fully implemented. The Economist, 28 Nov. 2020 Some days even the dog that always wanted more of you seems to hanker for more space. Rekha Basu, Star Tribune, 29 July 2020 Dani Bell was a British copywriter who hankered for her own marketing startup. Clive Thompson, Wired, 19 May 2020 Sweaty, tired and hankering for something to eat other than trail mix, the final leg of a hike — the light at the end of the tunnel — holds the promise of relief, celebration and maybe a cold beer. Mare Czinar, azcentral, 24 Apr. 2020 Even those not joining family and friends for a feast seem to hanker for the traditional flavors of the day, said McCabe. BostonGlobe.com, 22 Nov. 2019 Internally, such a production is most likely to appeal to more-experienced opera-goers, who more often are the types hankering for something new. Nicholas M. Gallagher, National Review, 21 Mar. 2020 They were rewarded with bellies full of chicken and a hankering for raw kale and Pepto-Bismol. Jenn Harrisstaff Writer, Los Angeles Times, 25 Feb. 2020 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'hanker.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History


probably from Dutch dialect hankeren

First Known Use

1627, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of hanker was in 1627

Dictionary Entries Near hanker

Cite this Entry

“Hanker.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hanker. Accessed 28 Nov. 2022.

Kids Definition



han·​ker ˈhaŋ-kər How to pronounce hanker (audio)
hankered; hankering -k(ə-)riŋ How to pronounce hanker (audio)
: to have an eager or continual desire
hanker after fame
hankerer noun
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