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From sym- +‎ -pathy, borrowed from Middle French sympathie, from Late Latin sympathīa, from Ancient Greek συμπάθεια (sumpátheia), from σύν (sún, with, together) + πάθος (páthos, suffering).



sympathy (countable and uncountable, plural sympathies)

  1. A feeling of pity or sorrow for the suffering or distress of another; compassion.
  2. The ability to share the feelings of another.
  3. A mutual relationship between people or things such that they are correspondingly affected by any condition.
    • William Whewell, History of the Inductive Sciences
      He observed, also, the frequent sympathy of volcanic and terremotive action in remote districts of the earth's surface, thus showing how deeply seated must be the cause of these convulsions.
    • 1997, Chris Horrocks, Introducing Foucault, page 67, The Renaissance Episteme (Totem Books, Icon Books; ISBN 1840460865
      'Sympathy' likened anything to anything else in universal attraction, e.g. the fate of men to the course of the planets.
  4. Tendency towards or approval of the aims of a movement.
    Many people in Hollywood were blacklisted merely because they were suspected of Communist sympathies.

Usage notesEdit

  • Used similarly to empathy, interchangeably in looser usage. In stricter usage, empathy is stronger and more intimate, while sympathy is weaker and more distant; see empathy: usage notes.


Derived termsEdit


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