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

Raised in Annapolis, Bill Belichick sent his condolences to The Capital Gazette newspaper in a short statement after five employees were killed by a gunman late last week. Jacob Feldman, SI.com, "Kam Chancellor's Retirement Marks the End of Two Eras," 3 July 2018 Bonnie Crombie, the mayor of Mississauga, sent her condolences to the wounded. New York Times, "Two Sought in Bombing at Indian Restaurant in Ontario," 25 May 2018 Mayor Roger Byrne on March 1 passed a resolution thanking Rheintgen for his service and sending condolences to his family on behalf of the village. Staff Report, chicagotribune.com, "Shout Out: Patrick Zimmerman, new Vernon Hills deputy police chief," 18 Apr. 2018 As the news spread, other sports teams — professional and amateur — began sending their condolences publicly. Anchorage Daily News, "Bus crash in Canada devastates a hockey town," 8 Apr. 2018 Baseball fans around the country took to social media to send condolences to Staub's family. NOLA.com, "New Orleans baseball legend Rusty Staub left hefty legacy on the game," 29 Mar. 2018 The College sends its condolences to Professor Hawking’s family. Jane Onyanga-omara, USA TODAY, "Tributes to the brilliant Stephen Hawking flood social media," 14 Mar. 2018 For further family information and online condolences please visit, www.burroughsfh.com Burroughs Funeral Home and Cremation Services of Murrells Inlet, SC (843.651.1440) is in charge of arrangements. Hartford Courant, courant.com, "Joseph Thomas Kennedy," 13 July 2018 Players from Paul Pierce to Eric Gordon, Matt Barnes and Reggie Miller also shared condolences after the accident. Dakota Crawford, Indianapolis Star, "Rasual Butler autopsy reveals the former Pacer had drugs, alcohol in system during crash," 1 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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Dictionary Entries near condolence

condivision

condo

condole

condolence

condolent

condom

condominate

Statistics for condolence

Last Updated

21 Oct 2018

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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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More from Merriam-Webster on condolence

Spanish Central: Translation of condolence

Nglish: Translation of condolence for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of condolence for Arabic Speakers

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