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[sim-puh-thee] /ˈsɪm pə θi/
noun, plural sympathies.
harmony of or agreement in feeling, as between persons or on the part of one person with respect to another.
the harmony of feeling naturally existing between persons of like tastes or opinion or of congenial dispositions.
the fact or power of sharing the feelings of another, especially in sorrow or trouble; fellow feeling, compassion, or commiseration.
  1. feelings or impulses of compassion.
  2. feelings of favor, support, or loyalty:
    It's hard to tell where your sympathies lie.
favorable or approving accord; favor or approval:
He viewed the plan with sympathy and publicly backed it.
agreement, consonance, or accord.
Psychology. a relationship between persons in which the condition of one induces a parallel or reciprocal condition in another.
Physiology. the relation between parts or organs whereby a condition or disorder of one part induces some effect in another.
expressing sympathy:
a sympathy card; a sympathy vote.
Origin of sympathy
1560-70; < Latin sympathīa < Greek sympátheia, equivalent to sympathe-, stem of sympathḗs sympathetic (sym- sym- + páth(os) suffering, sensation + -ēs adj. suffix) + -ia -y3
Related forms
nonsympathy, noun, plural nonsympathies.
presympathy, noun
supersympathy, noun, plural supersympathies.
Can be confused
empathy, sympathy (see synonym study at the current entry)
1. concord, understanding, rapport, affinity. Sympathy, compassion, pity, empathy all denote the tendency, practice, or capacity to share in the feelings of others, especially their distress, sorrow, or unfulfilled desires. Sympathy is the broadest of these terms, signifying a general kinship with another's feelings, no matter of what kind: in sympathy with her yearning for peace and freedom; to extend sympathy to the bereaved. Compassion implies a deep sympathy for the sorrows or troubles of another coupled to a powerful urge to alleviate the pain or distress or to remove its source: to show compassion for homeless refugees. Pity usually suggests a kindly, but sometimes condescending, sorrow aroused by the suffering or ill fortune of others, often leading to a show of mercy: tears of pity for war casualties; to have pity on a thief driven by hunger. Empathy most often refers to a vicarious participation in the emotions, ideas, or opinions of others, the ability to imagine oneself in the condition or predicament of another: empathy with those striving to improve their lives; to feel empathy with Hamlet as one watches the play. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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British Dictionary definitions for sympathy


noun (pl) -thies
the sharing of another's emotions, esp of sorrow or anguish; pity; compassion
an affinity or harmony, usually of feelings or interests, between persons or things: to be in sympathy with someone
mutual affection or understanding arising from such a relationship; congeniality
the condition of a physical system or body when its behaviour is similar or corresponds to that of a different system that influences it, such as the vibration of sympathetic strings
(sometimes pl) a feeling of loyalty, support, or accord, as for an idea, cause, etc
(physiol) the mutual relationship between two organs or parts whereby a change in one has an effect on the other
Word Origin
C16: from Latin sympathīa, from Greek sumpatheia, from sumpathēs, from syn- + pathos suffering
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for sympathy

1570s, "affinity between certain things," from Middle French sympathie, from Late Latin sympathia "community of feeling, sympathy," from Greek sympatheia, from sympathes "having a fellow feeling, affected by like feelings," from syn- "together" (see syn-) + pathos "feeling" (see pathos).

In English, almost a magical notion at first; e.g. in reference to medicines that heal wounds when applied to a cloth stained with blood from the wound. Meaning "conformity of feelings" is from 1590s; sense of "fellow feeling" is first attested 1660s. An Old English loan-translation of sympathy was efensargung.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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sympathy in Medicine

sympathy sym·pa·thy (sĭm'pə-thē)

  1. A relation between parts or organs by which a disease or disorder in one induces an effect in the other.

  2. Mental contagion, as in yawning induced by seeing another person yawn.

  3. Mutual understanding or affection arising from a relationship or an affinity, in which whatever affects one correspondingly affects the other.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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