condolence

noun
con·​do·​lence | \ kən-ˈdō-lən(t)s also ˈkän-də- \

Definition of condolence

1 : sympathy with another in sorrow
2 : an expression of sympathy usually plural The bereaved family received many condolences.

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Choose the Right Synonym for condolence

pity, compassion, commiseration, condolence, sympathy mean the act or capacity for sharing the painful feelings of another. pity implies tender or sometimes slightly contemptuous sorrow for one in misery or distress. felt pity for the captives compassion implies pity coupled with an urgent desire to aid or to spare. treats the homeless with great compassion commiseration suggests pity expressed outwardly in exclamations, tears, or words of comfort. murmurs of commiseration filled the loser's headquarters condolence applies chiefly to formal expression of grief to one who has suffered loss. expressed their condolences to the widow sympathy often suggests a tender concern but can also imply a power to enter into another's emotional experience of any sort. went to my best friend for sympathy in sympathy with her desire to locate her natural parents

Condolence and Condolences

When used in the singular, condolence generally refers to sympathetic sorrow, and particularly sorrow with regard to the loss of life. It is used when speaking indirectly of that shared sorrow:

After the 1985 Bradford stadium fire, during the Prime Minister's visit of condolence to the city, . . .
— William Leith, The Independent (London), 25 Nov. 1990

and often in a modifying position:

Still, although I felt for him, I barely knew the guy. Would it be inappropriate to pay a condolence call? Did they want their privacy?
— Alan Gelb, The New York Times Magazine, 7 Jan. 1990

Last week, people around the world showed their support for Russia. They held candlelight vigils, sent condolence letters and signed memory books.
— Jeremy Caplan, TIME for Kids, 17 Sept. 2004

The plural condolences, on the other hand, is often used specifically for an expression of sympathy, and most often appears in the construction my condolences, which is used to communicate sympathy. While condolences is often used to share sorrow over a death:

The prime minister of the day attended Hardy's funeral. . . . King George V and the Prince of Wales telegraphed their condolences.
— Terry Eagleton, Harper’s, November 2007

it can also be used of anything perceived of as a misfortune:

The odds of getting Apert syndrome are about the same as getting killed by lightning: 1 in 100,000. Indeed, for his family, Nate's birth was a lightning bolt: it came from the blue and was a shock to the system. Instead of getting congratulatory notes, the couple got condolences.
Bella English, Boston Globe, 1 Oct. 2000

Within mere hours of Ted Lambros's rejection for tenure at Harvard, communications began to pour in from every important university center of the United States. Some were simply to express condolences.
— Erich Segal, The Class, 1985

Condolences is sometimes used humorously, whereas condolence is not:

Tell someone you're from Buffalo, and you get the Look: If pity and condescension got it on, this is the baby they'd make. Something in the eyes that offers condolences for everything from playing childhood games in a frozen tundropolis to four straight Super Bowl losses.
— Nick Bakay, ESPN, 28 June 1999

Condolences is the more common form of the word, and should be used when expressing your sympathy at someone’s loss.

Examples of condolence in a Sentence

The governor issued a statement of condolence to the victims' families. We wish to express our sincere condolences to your family.

Recent Examples on the Web

Tiffany Schubin, an executive assistant at Halmar International, the firm that worked on the bridge, said the company regretted the firefighter’s death and offered condolences to his family. Zolan Kanno-youngs, WSJ, "FDNY Mourns the Loss of ‘Model’ Rookie," 7 Jan. 2019 Funerals for the 11 victims began on Tuesday, and, according to a report by Reuters, nearly 2,000 mourners arrived in Pittsburgh to offer condolences for two of the four victims whose funerals were being held. Emily Bloch, Teen Vogue, "Following Synagogue Shooting, Trump's Visit to Pittsburgh Was Met With Protests," 30 Oct. 2018 President Donald Trump offered condolences and pledged Friday to fight violence in America after the deadly shooting at the Capital Gazette office in Annapolis. Yvonne Wenger, baltimoresun.com, "President Trump speaks out against the Capital Gazette shooting," 29 June 2018 Readers also offered condolences to the family of former state Del. Tom Gear, who died last week. Joe Graedon, M.s., And Teresa Graedon, Houston Chronicle, "Changing washcloths daily helps control acne," 23 June 2018 Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images President Trump took a moment to offer condolences to the family of former Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who passed away on Saturday at the age of 81. Kay Steiger, Vox, "Trump disliked McCain, but his tweet right after news of his death is straightforward," 26 Aug. 2018 To leave an online condolence, share a memory or a photo, please visit Sonny's tribute page at www. Hartford Courant, courant.com, "Ewen McLeod III," 12 July 2018 We are deeply saddened by her passing and share our heartfelt condolences with her family.’’ Ms. Donovan was a member of three Olympics teams as a player. Doug Feinberg, BostonGlobe.com, "Basketball Hall of Famer Anne Donovan dies at 56," 14 June 2018 More than a dozen people offered their prayers, condolences, and shared grief. Scott Berson, charlotteobserver, "Couple was driving home from a relative's funeral. They didn't make it.," 12 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'condolence.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of condolence

1603, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for condolence

see condole

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Learn More about condolence

Share condolence

Dictionary Entries near condolence

condivision

condo

condole

condolence

condolent

condom

condominate

Statistics for condolence

Last Updated

14 Jan 2019

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Time Traveler for condolence

The first known use of condolence was in 1603

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More Definitions for condolence

condolence

noun

English Language Learners Definition of condolence

: a feeling or expression of sympathy and sadness especially when someone is suffering because of the death of a family member, a friend, etc.

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