sympathy

noun
sym·​pa·​thy | \ ˈsim-pə-thē How to pronounce sympathy (audio) \
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 On the day of the elections, over appetizers, her brother-in-law suggested that one pro-democracy candidate had organized an attack against himself by hammer-wielding thugs to win sympathy. Alexandra Stevenson, New York Times, "Hong Kong Considers the Future: ‘If You Can Afford It, Leave’," 3 Jan. 2020 Lupita Nyong’o’s intense double turn, especially infusing her twin Red with the horror trope of unstoppable evil but also sympathy and vulnerability, was a tour de force showcase. Borys Kit, The Hollywood Reporter, "Heat Vision's Top 10 Movies of 2019," 31 Dec. 2019 When talking to families, students worried about balancing objectivity with sympathy. Lizzie Feidelson, The New Republic, "The Kids Profiling Every Single Child Killed by Guns," 26 Dec. 2019 And, as expected, people have very little sympathy for them. Candice Benbow, Essence, "Watching J.R. Smith's Wife Jewel Harris Publicly Pray Over Cheating Allegations Made Me Uncomfortable...and It Should Have," 18 Dec. 2019 The book by Enda Walsh looks a little harder at the physical abuse suffered by many characters in Ireland’s Catholic culture even more than the movie did, which adds some sympathy to Brother Baxter and some tragic darkness to Raphina. Christian Holub, EW.com, "Sing Street's musical charm is even more infectious on stage: Review," 17 Dec. 2019 Meanwhile, his outsider status—as other men in the village have gone off to fight and die—leads to Fani and their children being ostracized, apart from the secret support of a few friends who share Franz’s sympathies but not his resolve or courage. Richard Brody, The New Yorker, "When Bad Nazis Happen to Good Directors: Terrence Malick’s “A Hidden Life”," 17 Dec. 2019 The return letters were filled with sadness and sympathy. Karina Bland, azcentral, "They made their own family of children who needed one. Now he carries on for both of them," 13 Dec. 2019 Howard is a buffoon, but a remarkably compelling one, who commands sympathy even as his gambling addiction and his refusal to compromise draws him into darker and darker places. David Sims, The Atlantic, "The Gritty, Spellbinding Tragedy of Uncut Gems," 12 Dec. 2019

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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Learn More about sympathy

Time Traveler for sympathy

Time Traveler

The first known use of sympathy was in 1579

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Statistics for sympathy

Last Updated

10 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Sympathy.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sympathy?show=0&t=1400857868. Accessed 20 January 2020.

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More Definitions for sympathy

sympathy

noun
How to pronounce sympathy (audio)

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.

sympathy

noun
sym·​pa·​thy | \ ˈsim-pə-thē How to pronounce sympathy (audio) \
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

sympathy

noun
sym·​pa·​thy | \ ˈsim-pə-thē How to pronounce sympathy (audio) \
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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Comments on sympathy

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