lone·​ly ˈlōn-lē How to pronounce lonely (audio)
lonelier; loneliest
: being without company : lone
too many lonely nights at home
: cut off from others : solitary
the train stopped frequently at lonely little stationsRobert Hichens
: not frequented by human beings : desolate
a lonely spot in the woods
: sad from being alone : lonesome
He was feeling lonely without his wife and children.
: producing a feeling of bleakness or desolation
it's a lonely thing to be a championG. B. Shaw
loneliness noun
Choose the Right Synonym for lonely

alone, solitary, lonely, lonesome, lone, forlorn, desolate mean isolated from others.

alone stresses the objective fact of being by oneself with slighter notion of emotional involvement than most of the remaining terms.

everyone needs to be alone sometimes

solitary may indicate isolation as a chosen course

glorying in the calm of her solitary life

but more often it suggests sadness and a sense of loss.

left solitary by the death of his wife

lonely adds to solitary a suggestion of longing for companionship.

felt lonely and forsaken

lonesome heightens the suggestion of sadness and poignancy.

an only child often leads a lonesome life

lone may replace lonely or lonesome but typically is as objective as alone.

a lone robin pecking at the lawn

forlorn stresses dejection, woe, and listlessness at separation from one held dear.

a forlorn lost child

desolate implies inconsolable grief at loss or bereavement.

desolate after her brother's death

Examples of lonely in a Sentence

He was lonely without his wife and children. She was a lonely child with few friends. It was lonely living out in the country. She spent too many lonely nights at home. She had a lonely childhood. a lonely spot in the woods a lonely stretch of road
Recent Examples on the Web The phrase is seen as a dig at the possibility these lonely residents are actually waiting for Russian troops to arrive. Emile Ducke Thomas Gibbons-Neff, New York Times, 8 Apr. 2024 Some of them are lonely, some are feeling insecure. Georgia Rowe, The Mercury News, 3 Apr. 2024 In real life, such a beautiful person might be called a lonely loser. Cressida Leyshon, The New Yorker, 1 Apr. 2024 Though long considered to be the small, lonely outlier of the solar system, the International Astronomical Union, a nongovernmental organization, downgraded that categorization in 2006. Li Cohen, CBS News, 1 Apr. 2024 Also, being a business owner can be lonely at times. Expert Panel®, Forbes, 29 Mar. 2024 Business Column: Scientists are paying a huge personal price in the lonely fight against anti-vaxxers Oct. 20, 2023 More on that shortly. Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times, 20 Mar. 2024 Get Connected In a journey as lonely and daunting as entrepreneurship can often be, having a supportive network of fellow leaders and helpful resources can make all the difference. John Hall, Forbes, 29 Mar. 2024 And now, years later, Steve is not such a lonely guy. Steve Martin, USA TODAY, 29 Mar. 2024

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'lonely.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

circa 1598, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of lonely was circa 1598

Dictionary Entries Near lonely

Cite this Entry

“Lonely.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/lonely. Accessed 16 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


lone·​ly ˈlōn-lē How to pronounce lonely (audio)
lonelier; loneliest
: not visited by human beings : desolate
a lonely spot
: lonesome sense 1
feeling lonely
loneliness noun

More from Merriam-Webster on lonely

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!