Alone, Solitary, Lonely, Lonesome, Lone, Lorn, Forlorn and Desolate may all refer to situations of being apart from others or emotions experienced while apart.
Alone stresses the fact of physical isolation and also may connote feelings of isolation from others.
- the captain of a ship at sea is a remote, inaccessible creature, something like a prince of a fairy tale, alone of his kind
Solitary may indicate a state of being apart that is desired and sought for.
- Netta loved these solitary interludes . . . . She could dream things there and tell herself stories there, untroubled
It often connotes sadness at the loss or lack of usual or close connections or consciousness of isolation or remoteness.
- being solitary he could only address himself to the waiter
- an only child, he was left solitary by the early death of his mother… whose loss he felt severely
Lonely may simply indicate the fact of being alone but more often suggests isolation accompanied by a longing for company.
- he was lonely, but not in an unhappy sense . . . it was no hardship for him to be alone
- his grim look, his pride, his silence, his wild outbursts of passion, left William lonely even in his court
—J. R. Green
- he felt more lonely and forsaken than at any time since his father’s death
Lonesome, often more poignant, suggests sadness after a separation or bereavement.
- you must keep up your spirits, mother, and not be lonesome because I’m not at home
- her flight. . . yet smote my lonesome heart more than all misery
Lone especially in poetical use may replace either lonely or lonesome.
- in his lone course the shepherd oft will pause
- the mother’s dead and I reckon it’s got no father; it’s a lone thing
Lorn suggests recent separation or bereavement.
- when lorn lovers sit and droop
Forlorn indicates dejection, woe, and listlessness at separation from someone dear.
- as forlorn and stupefied as I was when my husband’s spirit flew away
- as forlorn as King Lear at the end of his days
—G. W. Johnson
Desolate is most extreme in suggesting inconsolable grief at loss or bereavement.
- fatherless, a desolate orphan
- for her false mate has fled and left her desolate
Solitary, lonely, lonesome, desolate are applied to places and locations more than the other words discriminated above. Solitary may be applied either to something that is apart from things similar or that is uninhabited or unvisited by human beings.
- a solitary chamber, or rather cell, at the top of the house, and separated from all the other apartments by a gallery and staircase
Lonely may be applied to what is either far apart from things similar and seldom visited or to what is inhabited by only one person or group and conducive to loneliness.
- heard not only in the towns but even in lonely farmhouses
Lonesome has much the same suggestion.
- like one that on a lonesome road doth walk in fear and dread
Desolate indicates either that a place is abandoned by people or that it is so barren and wild as never to have attracted them.
- as if nothing had life by day, in that lifeless desolate spot