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

The show also illustrates his enormous public popularity and his sympathy for many of the revolutions taking place across Europe. Caroline Hallemann, Town & Country, "Who Was Queen Victoria's Foreign Secretary, Lord Palmerston?," 20 Jan. 2019 Papa John’s founder, John Schnatter, is seemingly seeking a few slices of sympathy from the company’s employees. Michael Bartiromo, Fox News, "Papa John's says John Schnatter can't 'distract' from inappropriate comments with new full-page ad," 22 Aug. 2018 Downey said, on the defense side, Mitchell's continuous expressions of sympathy, remorse and regret were part of the decision to pursue a less stringent punishment. Victoria Cheyne, Houston Chronicle, "Man gets life in fatal shooting of ex-girlfriend, her boyfriend," 6 June 2018 Fieseler also attends to a different kind of heroism — the painstaking slog of activism that has seen the fire commemorated in plaques and public days of mourning, the seeking of sympathy from a dilatory city and church. Parul Sehgal, New York Times, "In 1973, an Arsonist Killed 32 People at a Gay Club. Why Has History Shrugged?," 29 May 2018 The family expresses our sincere and deep appreciation for the many prayers, support and kind expressions of sympathy from our many friends. Orlando Sentinel,, "Deaths in Central Florida: 5/27," 27 May 2018 And no matter what their sympathies, reporters have a duty to give all the relevant facts. The Economist, "The weasel voice in journalism," 24 May 2018 The days of paper notes of sympathy, love, and celebration are far from over. Southern Living, "You Won't Believe How Much The Greeting Card Industry Is Worth," 9 May 2018 For mezzo-soprano Sandra Ross, who plays Suzuki, Butterfly's handmaiden, the goal is to incite sympathy, especially in light of current events, for a woman treated unfairly and then denied the ability to demand justice. Zachary Lewis,, "Cleveland Opera Theater pushing relevance with new production of 'Madama Butterfly' (preview)," 25 Apr. 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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Statistics for sympathy

Last Updated

7 Feb 2019

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

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