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This is from the BBC news, abortion ban temporarirly lifted for medical emergencies

"Lead plaintiff Amanda Zurawski said that for the first time in a long time, I cried for joy when I heard the news".

"cry" for joy" has drawn my attention. I looked it up and "cry for" is used when you want or ask for something like a help.

But here, "joy" is only the result of happiness. So, I would expect "cry with joy" or "cry out of joy", though I am not a native speaker.

So, I wanted to ask; which one is idiomatic: "I cried for joy" or "I cried out of joy" or "I cried with joy."

2 Answers 2

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All of your options are both idiomatic and grammatical. This use of the preposition 'for' is a secondary meaning, defined in Cambridge dictionary as "because of or as a result of something". So, "cried for joy" means "cried because of joy".

As they are both correct and virtually interchangeable, this is a situation where an ngram comparison is helpful - as this ngram shows, "cried for joy" was the most commonly used in this sample of literature up until the mid-20th century, but "cried with joy" has become the more often used in recent decades.

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Your third example of "cried out..." is slightly different. To 'cry' normally means to shed tears, although it can also mean to loudly proclaim something. "Cry out" is a phrasal verb which specifically means to shout out loud. So, this version is equally idiomatic, but not exactly interchangeable, depending on what you mean by "cry". I would expect "cry with/for joy" to mean tears, because shedding tears is most often out of sadness, which is why we tend to specify when it is because of joy.

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  • thanks for the answer. But, I still wonder why dictionaries fail in such circumstances. At school we were taught to refer to dictionaries to see the senses of words or phrases. But it turns out that it does not always work. E.g dictionaries say "cry for: to need or require (something) very much.", which misses this sense of "cry for joy". So, "I cried for joy." supposed to be wrong, but now it turns out that "it is correct." So, I can't be sure whether the senses of a word in a dictionary are really all there is to it. I now think that the dictionaries should be verified with a native speaker.
    – Yunus
    Aug 10, 2023 at 8:20
  • @yunus Why do you say dictionaries fail? I've quoted a definition of "for" from Cambridge Dictionary. It is the third definition listed. I've shown how you can insert the definition into the sentence in place of the word and it makes sense. I'd say the dictionary has done a fine job and the only failure is that you didn't read it.
    – Astralbee
    Aug 10, 2023 at 8:22
  • I have looked up 2 dictionaries, one is Collins and the other is Merriem Webster. Here are the links, 1- collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/cry 2-merriam-webster.com/dictionary/cry%20for I haven't looked it up Cambdrige. That is true. This is good that at least one dictionary covers it. But previously, I have come across situations, where no dictionary covers something but it turns out to be commony used amongst natives. This was what I wanted to emphasize. I now think that you should check as many dictionaries as you can.
    – Yunus
    Aug 10, 2023 at 8:26
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    I would say that cry for joy is an idiom. I searched the iWeb corpus for "cry for [singular noun]", and of the first hundred words matched, only cry for joy (37 instances), cry for lack (of something - 4 instances) and _cry for delight (3 instances) use "for" in this way. The other 4529 instances of 97 different words all use it in the sense @Yunus identified.
    – Colin Fine
    Aug 15, 2023 at 17:01
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    @ColinFine Why the strawman, Colin? I suggested nothing of the sort. Kick the bucket has a particular meaning as an idiom that you could not deduce by looking up its component words in a dictionary. 'Cry for joy' you absolutely could. I cried. Why did I cry? For joy. You know this, but you always have to have the final word.
    – Astralbee
    Aug 15, 2023 at 17:45
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Want another illustration of this use of for in the sense of because? Check out this (lengthy) saying:

For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.
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  • While this link may answer the question, it is better to include the essential parts of the answer here and provide the link for reference. Link-only answers can become invalid if the linked page changes. - From Review
    – Chenmunka
    Aug 17, 2023 at 10:29
  • Good point. Thanks. Aug 17, 2023 at 11:58

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