sym·pa·thy | \ˈsim-pə-thē \
plural sympathies

Definition of sympathy 

1a : an affinity, association, or relationship between persons or things wherein whatever affects one similarly affects the other

b : mutual or parallel susceptibility or a condition brought about by it

c : unity or harmony in action or effect every part is in complete sympathy with the scheme as a whole— Edwin Benson

2a : inclination to think or feel alike : emotional or intellectual accord in sympathy with their goals

b : feeling of loyalty : tendency to favor or support republican sympathies

3a : the act or capacity of entering into or sharing the feelings or interests of another

b : the feeling or mental state brought about by such sensitivity have sympathy for the poor

4 : the correlation existing between bodies capable of communicating their vibrational energy to one another through some medium

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Choose the Right Synonym for sympathy

attraction, affinity, sympathy mean the relationship existing between things or persons that are naturally or involuntarily drawn together. attraction implies the possession by one thing of a quality that pulls another to it. felt an attraction to danger affinity implies a susceptibility or predisposition on the part of the one drawn. an affinity for mathematics sympathy implies a reciprocal or natural relation between two things that are both susceptible to the same influence. two minds in sympathy

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

Sympathy vs. Empathy

Sympathy and empathy are closely related words, bound by shared origins and the similar circumstances in which each is applicable, yet they are not synonymous. For one thing, sympathy is considerably older than empathy, having existed in our language for several hundred years before its cousin was introduced, and its greater age is reflected in a wider breadth of meaning. Sympathy may refer to "feelings of loyalty" or "unity or harmony in action or effect," meanings not shared by empathy. In the contexts where the two words do overlap, sympathy implies sharing (or having the capacity to share) the feelings of another, while empathy tends to be used to mean imagining, or having the capacity to imagine, feelings that one does not actually have.

Examples of sympathy in a Sentence

She went to her best friend for sympathy. Letters of sympathy were sent to the families of the victims. My deepest sympathies go out to the families of the victims. Our sympathies are with them. There was no sympathy between them.
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Recent Examples on the Web

Sage Steele doesn't have much sympathy for the heat Jemele Hill has taken for her controversial comments on Donald Trump. Matthew Vantryon, Indianapolis Star, "Sage Steele on Jemele Hill social media backlash: 'She put that onto herself'," 31 Jan. 2018 Trump may have little sympathy for what remains of the rebels fighting Bashar Assad, who is backed by Moscow. Anna Arutunyan, Time, "No Matter What Happens in Helsinki, Putin Has Already Won," 10 July 2018 Issa storms out, taking our sympathy for Daniel with her. Mariah Smith, GQ, "The Rules of the Gym, According to the Hot Dudes of ‘Insecure’," 30 May 2018 The court seemed to have little sympathy for Wenger’s claim that the district’s policy violated his clients’ privacy rights. Jeremy Roebuck,, "Appeals court OKs Boyertown schools' policy letting transgender students use bathrooms of their choice," 24 May 2018 To all the fantasy football general managers out there, Detroit Lions head coach Matt Patricia has no sympathy for your plight. Dave Birkett, Detroit Free Press, "Bad news for fantasy GMs: Detroit Lions will use host of RBs this year," 11 Apr. 2018 The first time a nominee testified under oath in fully public hearings was in 1939, when Felix Frankfurter appeared before the Senate to answer charges of disloyalty for his civil libertarian sympathies. Jeffrey Rosen, WSJ, "What We Learn from Supreme Court Confirmation Hearings," 13 July 2018 Our heartfelt sympathy is extended to her entire family., "Deaths in South Florida: 7/11," 11 July 2018 She and Young spoke of their sympathy for the plight of asylum seekers and even economic migrants who aim to come here legally but then find years-long waits or are simply turned away at the border. Erica Martinson, Anchorage Daily News, "Alaska delegation looks to bipartisan response from Congress for immigration woes," 22 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'sympathy.' 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 sympathy

1579, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for sympathy

Latin sympathia, from Greek sympatheia, from sympathēs having common feelings, sympathetic, from syn- + pathos feelings, emotion, experience — more at pathos

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Phrases Related to sympathy

tea and sympathy

Statistics for sympathy

Last Updated

17 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for sympathy

The first known use of sympathy was in 1579

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More Definitions for sympathy



English Language Learners Definition of sympathy

: the feeling that you care about and are sorry about someone else's trouble, grief, misfortune, etc. : a sympathetic feeling

: a feeling of support for something

: a state in which different people share the same interests, opinions, goals, etc.


sym·pa·thy | \ˈsim-pə-thē \
plural sympathies

Kids Definition of sympathy

1 : sorrow or pity for another She felt sympathy for the poor lost puppy.

2 : readiness to favor or support He expressed sympathy for the protesters.

3 : a relationship between people or things in which whatever affects one similarly affects the other


sym·pa·thy | \ˈsim-pə-thē \
plural sympathies

Medical Definition of sympathy 

1a : an affinity, association, or relationship between persons or things wherein whatever affects one similarly affects the other

b : mutual or parallel susceptibility or a condition brought about by it

2a : the act or capacity of entering into or sharing the feelings or interests of another

b : the feeling or mental state brought about by such sensitivity

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More from Merriam-Webster on sympathy

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for sympathy

Spanish Central: Translation of sympathy

Nglish: Translation of sympathy for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of sympathy for Arabic Speakers

Comments on sympathy

What made you want to look up sympathy? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to reject or criticize sharply

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