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1. unhappy because you are alone or because you have no friends

2. a lonesome place is far from where people live, and not many people go there

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

Origin and usage

The adjective lonesome is formed from the adjective ‘lone’ and the suffix ‘-some’. It was first used in English in the mid 17th century and has been spelled in several different ways, including ‘loansome’, ‘lonesom’, and ‘lanesome’, the last in Scottish English.


The two meanings of lonesome map exactly onto those of the much more frequent ‘lonely’, although to me lonesome has a slightly more melancholy and self-pitying flavour. In addition to  being much less frequent, lonesome is also more commonly used in American than British English. Lonesome has a very particular set of collocates. A corpus search reveals its presence in a number of fixed phrases, including Lonesome Dove (the title of a novel and TV series); lonesome cowboy; lonesome blues; and of course lonesome pine, from the novel and song ‘The Trail of the Lonesome Pine’. The most frequent adverb collocates are ‘mighty‘, ‘awful‘, and ‘awfully’ (the first two typically American), while frequent adjective collocates include ‘homesick’, ‘forlorn’, ‘dreary’, ‘solitary’ and ‘sad’. The phrase ‘on or by your lonesome‘ means ‘alone’.


“In the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, On the Trail of the Lonesome Pine, In the pale moonshine, our hearts entwine, Where she carved her name and I carved mine;”
(Ballard MacDonald)

Related words

lonely, isolated, alone, forlorn

Browse related words in the Macmillan Thesaurus.

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