con·​do·​lence | \ kən-ˈdō-lən(t)s also ˈkän-də- How to pronounce condolence (audio) \

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

Share your memories and send condolences to the family at Stuart Basil Groo Stuart Basil Groo died peacefully and surrounded by his beloved family on Monday, August 26 in Tampa, Florida., "Deaths in Central Florida: 9/1," 1 Sep. 2019 Members of the soccer community expressed their condolences on Twitter on Tuesday, including the Rapids. Jake Shapiro, The Denver Post, "Former Rapids midfielder Colin Clark, a Fort Collins native, dies," 27 Aug. 2019 Coordinators were on hand to help people express their condolences and then gently be ushered out to make room for the next groups. Dallas News, "A grieving man’s cry for support draws people from all over to mourn El Paso massacre victim," 17 Aug. 2019 Keith also sent his condolences to Mike’s wife of 34 years, Cherie, and his kids, Maria and Amanda. Megan Stein, Country Living, "'Deadliest Catch' Captain Keith Colburn's Former Deck Boss and Mentor Has Died at 66," 13 Aug. 2019 Moments after balloons were released and carried away with the wind, rain started to pour, but the crowd lingered to hug Jil Jackson and express condolences. Oyin Adedoyin,, "4-year-old boy mourned at vigil in Northwest Baltimore, including by woman who says she is former foster mother," 7 Aug. 2019 Beyond a supportive congregation and city leadership, Battle Ground residents have expressed condolences in spite of their different political views., "Clark County church’s LGBT-friendly banner stolen, vandalized," 23 July 2019 Markey reportedly called to offer his condolences shortly after Kennedy’s cousin, Saoirse Kennedy Hill, died at age 22 in Hyannis Port. Stefan Geller, The Mercury News, "Joseph Kennedy III reportedly eyeing Ed Markey’s Senate seat," 17 Aug. 2019 President Donald Trump visited El Paso on Wednesday to offer his condolences after a Saturday mass shooting left 22 people dead. Arnessa Garrett, Dallas News, "Bonnen apologizes but faces investigation, Trump lights up Joaquin Castro, Paxton joins sick leave lawsuit," 8 Aug. 2019

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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Statistics for condolence

Last Updated

9 Sep 2019

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Time Traveler for condolence

The first known use of condolence was in 1603

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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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authorized for issue (as a bond)

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