See more synonyms for sympathetic on
  1. characterized by, proceeding from, exhibiting, or feeling sympathy; sympathizing; compassionate: a sympathetic listener.
  2. acting or affected by, of the nature of, or pertaining to a special affinity or mutual relationship; congenial: With their many similar tastes, he found her a most sympathetic companion.
  3. looking upon with favor (often followed by to or toward): She is sympathetic to the project.
  4. Anatomy, Physiology.
    1. pertaining to that part of the autonomic nervous system consisting of nerves that arise from the thoracic and lumbar regions of the spinal cord, and functioning in opposition to the parasympathetic system, as in stimulating heartbeat, dilating the pupil of the eye, etc.
    2. Obsolete.pertaining to the autonomic nervous system in its entirety.
  5. Physics. noting or pertaining to vibrations, sounds, etc., produced by a body as the direct result of similar vibrations in a different body.

Origin of sympathetic

1635–45; < New Latin sympathēticus < Greek sympathētikós. See sym-, pathetic
Related formssym·pa·thet·i·cal·ly, adverbnon·sym·pa·thet·ic, adjectivenon·sym·pa·thet·i·cal·ly, adverbqua·si-sym·pa·thet·ic, adjectivequa·si-sym·pa·thet·i·cal·ly, adverbsu·per·sym·pa·thet·ic, adjectiveun·sym·pa·thet·ic, adjectiveun·sym·pa·thet·i·cal·ly, adverb
Can be confusedempathetic sympathetic simpatico

Synonyms for sympathetic

See more synonyms for on
1. commiserating, kind, tender, affectionate. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for sympathetic

Contemporary Examples of sympathetic

Historical Examples of sympathetic

  • Sympathetic persons are apt to assume that every refined emotion must be ennobling.


    Thomas Wentworth Higginson

  • There is no passion in your veins; it is only a sort of sympathetic selfishness.


    Thomas Wentworth Higginson

  • This was Katherine Holroyd, a sympathetic observer and everybody's intimate.


    William J. Locke

  • Life at both ends was the very school for quick, sympathetic Shakespeare.

  • In this vast multitude every face was smiling, every heart beat with sympathetic joy.

    The Dream

    Emile Zola

British Dictionary definitions for sympathetic


  1. characterized by, feeling, or showing sympathy; understanding
  2. in accord with the subject's personality or mood; congeniala sympathetic atmosphere
  3. (when postpositive, often foll by to or towards) showing agreement (with) or favour (towards)sympathetic to the proposals
  4. anatomy physiol of or relating to the division of the autonomic nervous system that acts in opposition to the parasympathetic system accelerating the heartbeat, dilating the bronchi, inhibiting the smooth muscles of the digestive tract, etcCompare parasympathetic
  5. relating to vibrations occurring as a result of similar vibrations in a neighbouring bodysympathetic strings on a sitar
Derived Formssympathetically, adverb
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

Word Origin and History for sympathetic

1640s, "pertaining to sympathy," from Modern Latin sympatheticus, from Greek sympathetikos, from sympathein, from sympathes "having a fellow feeling, affected by like feelings" (see sympathy). Meaning "having fellow feeling" is recorded from 1718. In anatomical sense, the word is attested from 1769, from Modern Latin (nervus) sympathicus, coined by Jacques-Benigne Winslow (1669-1760), Danish anatomist living in Paris. Related: Sympathetically.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

sympathetic in Medicine


  1. Of, relating to, or acting on the sympathetic nervous system.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.