condolence

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

Keep scrolling for more

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 Today, the site has 2.8 million members and is filled with queries, suggestions, condolence posts with tearful emoji and videos from doctors explaining how to improve breathing or avoid suspicious cures. Washington Post, 12 May 2021 Recently the family has also begun sending out notes of gratitude to fans who sent words of condolence on the passing of Prince Philip, including a particularly sweet one from the Cambridges. Lauren Hubbard, Town & Country, 17 May 2021 One of her wartime jobs was to write letters of condolence to the families of soldiers killed in action. John Reinan, Star Tribune, 7 May 2021 Berkshire Pride posted a statement of condolence on Facebook. BostonGlobe.com, 4 May 2021 For many, this Mother’s Day will bring different kinds of bouquets, and cards not of celebration but of condolence and commemoration. Maya Phillips, New York Times, 7 May 2021 Despite vaccines in greater supply and a hopeful air about a return to normalcy as early as this summer, the virtual condolence center remains essential, receiving as many as 30 calls a day between Olmsted and other volunteers. Imani Cruzen, Star Tribune, 2 Apr. 2021 In Japan, gray ink signifies condolence, the artist explained in a Zoom talk about the exhibition for Duke Arts at Duke University. BostonGlobe.com, 31 Mar. 2021 Officials in Colorado reacted to the deadly shooting with statements of condolence and gratitude Monday night. Keith Allen, CNN, 23 Mar. 2021

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.

See More

First Known Use of condolence

1603, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for condolence

see condole

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More About condolence

Time Traveler for condolence

Time Traveler

The first known use of condolence was in 1603

See more words from the same year

Statistics for condolence

Last Updated

19 Jun 2021

Cite this Entry

“Condolence.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/condolence. Accessed 21 Jun. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

Keep scrolling for more

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.

WORD OF THE DAY

Test Your Vocabulary

Return of Name that Color!

  • a light greenish blue color
  • Name that color:
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

TAKE THE QUIZ
Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!