[ sor-ee, sawr-ee ]
/ ˈsɒr i, ˈsɔr i /
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See synonyms for: sorry / sorriness on Thesaurus.com

adjective, sor·ri·er, sor·ri·est.
feeling regret, compunction, sympathy, pity, etc.: to be sorry to leave one's friends; to be sorry for a remark; to be sorry for someone in trouble.
regrettable or deplorable; unfortunate; tragic: a sorry situation; to come to a sorry end.
sorrowful, grieved, or sad: Was she sorry when her brother died?
associated with sorrow; suggestive of grief or suffering; melancholy; dismal.
wretched, poor, useless, or pitiful: a sorry horse.
(used as a conventional apology or expression of regret): Sorry, you're misinformed. Did I bump you? Sorry.


When You Should Not Say Sorry

Sometimes saying sorry isn't the right thing to do ... just ask "the apologizer."

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Origin of sorry

First recorded before 900; Middle English; Old English sārig; cognate with Low German sērig, Old High German sērag. See sore, -y1

synonym study for sorry

5. See wretched.

historical usage of sorry

Sorry has been in written English since the time of King Alfred the Great (849–899), the word first appearing in his translation of Boethius’ The Consolation of Philosophy. In Book 1, King Alfred writes that Orpheus, having lost Eurydice, “became so sad ( sārig ) that he could not be among other men.” Sārig “feeling grief, sad, sorrowful” is an adjective derived from the Old English noun sār “mental or bodily pain or suffering” ( sār is also an adjective meaning “painful, sore, grievous”). Sār (noun and adjective) is akin to Old High German ser “painful” and the German adverb sehr “very” (as in the King James Bible, e.g., Luke’s Gospel 2:9, “They were sore afraid”).
There is no etymological connection between sār, sārig and Old English sorh, sorg “care, anxiety” (English sorrow ), which is akin to German Sorge “care, anxiety.” But even in Old English times, there was the semantic connection of “suffering” between sār, sārig and sorh, sorg. The Middle English change of sārig to sōri, then to sori (the change of long o in sōri to the short o in sori is due to the influence of the noun sorrowe ), and the Middle English change of sorh, sorg to sorye, soro, sorrowe created a close formal resemblance between sārig (in one Middle English spelling sori ) and sorh, sorg (in the Middle English spellings sorye, soro, sorrowe ), and sorrow has influenced the meaning of sorry ever since.


sor·ri·ly, adverbsor·ri·ness, nounun·sor·ry, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use sorry in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for sorry

/ (ˈsɒrɪ) /

adjective -rier or -riest
(usually postpositive often foll by for) feeling or expressing pity, sympathy, remorse, grief, or regretI feel sorry for him
pitiful, wretched, or deplorablea sorry sight
poor; paltrya sorry excuse
affected by sorrow; sad
causing sorrow or sadness
an exclamation expressing apology, used esp at the time of the misdemeanour, offence, etc

Derived forms of sorry

sorrily, adverbsorriness, noun

Word Origin for sorry

Old English sārig; related to Old High German sērag; see sore
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

Other Idioms and Phrases with sorry


see better safe than sorry.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.