[ sim-puh-thee ]
/ ˈsɪm pə θi /
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See synonyms for: sympathy / sympathies on Thesaurus.com

noun, plural sym·pa·thies.
expressing sympathy: A sympathy card can be an encouraging ray of light to someone who has recently lost a loved one.Some suspect the nomination was a sympathy vote rather than a true reflection of her qualifications.


What Is The Real Difference Between "Empathy" And "Sympathy"?

Empathy and sympathy both describe feelings, especially toward another person. But what is the real difference between them?

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Origin of sympathy

First recorded in 1560–70; from Latin sympathīa, from Greek sympátheia, equivalent to sympathe-, stem of sympathḗs “sympathetic” (sym- sym- + páth(os) “suffering, sensation” + -ēs adjective suffix) + -ia -y3

synonym study for sympathy

2. 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.


non·sym·pa·thy, noun, plural non·sym·pa·thies.pre·sym·pa·thy, nounsu·per·sym·pa·thy, noun, plural su·per·sym·pa·thies.


empathy, sympathy (see synonym study at the current entry)
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does sympathy mean?

Sympathy most commonly means the sharing of emotions with someone else, especially sadness.

This is usually understood to mean that you feel bad for them because they are in a negative situation.

Sympathy is sometimes used to mean compassion. The plural form sympathies refers to feelings of compassion, as in We need to offer our sympathies for their loss, or to support or loyalty, as in The governor has earned the sympathies of the working class. 

Sympathy is also sometimes used in a general way to refer to agreement, as in Their political positions are largely in sympathy with each other.

Someone who has sympathy for someone or a cause can be described as sympathetic. To feel sympathy for someone is to sympathize with them.

Some people use the word sympathy interchangeably or in overlapping ways with the word empathy, which is the ability or practice of imagining or trying to deeply understand what someone else is feeling or what it’s like to be in their situation. However, others distinguish the two terms by emphasizing the importance of having empathy for others (feeling their pain) as opposed to having sympathy for them (feeling sorry for them).

Example: I’ve experienced the same thing, so I have sympathy for them.

Where does sympathy come from?

The first records of the word sympathy come from the late 1500s. It comes from the Greek sympátheia, from sym-, “with,” and páth(os), “suffering.”

Sympathy can refer to the sharing of any emotion, or even agreement in preferences or tastes. But we usually use the word sympathy specifically to mean the sharing of feelings of sadness with others. When we give someone a card that expresses our condolences after the death of a loved one, we call this a sympathy card. We usually give these cards to people when we didn’t know the person who died as well as they did—we may feel sad because they’re sad, but our level of grief does not match their own.

While having sympathy for someone often means pitying them or feeling bad for them, having empathy often means feeling or attempting to feel and understand exactly how a person feels and what it’s like to be them.

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What are some other forms related to sympathy?

What are some synonyms for sympathy?

What are some words that share a root or word element with sympathy

What are some words that often get used in discussing sympathy?

What are some words sympathy may be commonly confused with?

How is sympathy used in real life?

Sympathy is often used in contexts involving the suffering and grief of others.



Try using sympathy!

Which of the following words is NOT a synonym of sympathy?

A. commiseration
B. compassion
C. indifference
D. pity

How to use sympathy in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for sympathy

/ (ˈsɪmpəθɪ) /

noun plural -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 thingsto 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 plural) 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 for sympathy

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