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See also: sympathise


Alternative forms[edit]


From French sympathiser.


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sympathize (third-person singular simple present sympathizes, present participle sympathizing, simple past and past participle sympathized) (Canada, US)

  1. (intransitive) To have, show or express sympathy; to be affected by feelings similar to those of another, in consequence of knowing the person to be thus affected.
    • 1712, Joseph Addison, Spectator No. 273, republished in Notes upon the Twelve Books of Paradise Lost, London: Jacob Tonson, 1719, p. 13,[1]
      [] the Authors having chosen for their Heroes Persons who were so nearly related to the People for whom they wrote. Achilles was a Greek, and Aeneas the remote Founder of Rome. By this Means their Countrymen (whom they principally proposed to themselves for their Readers) were particularly attentive to all the Parts of their Story, and sympathized with their Heroes in all their Adventures.
    • 1868, Louisa May Alcott, Little Women, Chapter 19,[2]
      Some old people keep young at heart in spite of wrinkles and gray hairs, can sympathize with children’s little cares and joys, make them feel at home, and can hide wise lessons under pleasant plays, giving and receiving friendship in the sweetest way.
    • 1875, Anthony Trollope, chapter 19, in The Way We Live Now, London: Chapman and Hall, []:
      “I can’t quite sympathise with your mother in all her feelings about this marriage, because I do not think that I recognise as she does the necessity of money.”
    • 1925, F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, New York: Scribner, Chapter 3, p. 52,[3]
      The wives were sympathizing with each other in slightly raised voices.
  2. (intransitive) To support, favour, have sympathy (with a political cause or movement, a side in a conflict / in an action).
    • 1855, Elizabeth Gaskell, North and South, Chapter 31,[4]
      [] who is to hunt up my witnesses? All of them are sailors, drafted off to other ships, except those whose evidence would go for very little, as they took part, or sympathised in the affair. []
    • 1919, Saki, “The Threat” in The Toys of Peace and Other Papers, London: John Lane, p. 150,[5]
      “Whether one sympathises with the agitation for female suffrage or not one has to admit that its promoters showed tireless energy and considerable enterprise in devising and putting into action new methods for accomplishing their ends. []
    • 1936, Margaret Mitchell, Gone with the Wind, New York: Macmillan, 1944, Part 2, Chapter 9, p. 171,[6]
      [] naturally the British aristocracy sympathized with the Confederacy, as one aristocrat with another, against a race of dollar lovers like the Yankees.
    • 1953, Saul Bellow, The Adventures of Augie March, New York: Viking, Chapter 3, pp. 41-42,[7]
      He’d go to [] Soviet Russia—now giving us the whole story, that he sympathized with the Reds and admired Lenin []
  3. (transitive) To say in an expression of sympathy.
    • 1995, Rohinton Mistry, A Fine Balance, Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, Chapter 3, p. 133,[8]
      “How much he slapped my sons—you should see their swollen faces, Panditji,” said Dukhi. []
      “Poor children,” sympathized Pandit Lallaram.
  4. (intransitive) To have a common feeling, as of bodily pleasure or pain.
    • 1814, J. S. Buckminster, Sermons, Boston, Sermon 3, p. 55,[9]
      [] the mind will sympathize so much with the anguish and debility of the body, that it will be [] too distracted to fix itself in meditation.
  5. (transitive, obsolete) To share (a feeling or experience).
    • c. 1589, William Shakespeare, The Comedy of Errors, Act V, Scene 1,[10]
      And all that are assembled in this place,
      That by this sympathized one day’s error
      Have suffer’d wrong, go keep us company,
      And we shall make full satisfaction.
  6. (intransitive) To agree; to be in accord; to harmonize.
    • c. 1597, William Shakespeare, Henry IV, Part 1, Act V, Scene 1,[11]
      Henry V. The southern wind
      Doth play the trumpet to his purposes,
      And by his hollow whistling in the leaves
      Foretells a tempest and a blustering day.
      Henry IV. Then with the losers let it sympathize,
      For nothing can seem foul to those that win.
    • 1695 John Dryden (translator), De Arte Graphica. The Art of Painting by Charles Alphonse du Fresnoy, London: W. Rogers, p. 175,[12]
      Green, for example, is a pleasing Colour, which may come from a blue and a yellow mix’d together, and by consequence blue and yellow are two Colours which sympathize:
    • 1847, Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights, Chapter 8,[13]
      Then personal appearance sympathised with mental deterioration: he acquired a slouching gait and ignoble look; his naturally reserved disposition was exaggerated into an almost idiotic excess of unsociable moroseness []

Usage notes[edit]

Used similarly to empathize, interchangeably in looser usage. In stricter usage, empathize is stronger and more intimate, while sympathize is weaker and more distant. See empathy: usage notes.

Further, the general “agree, accord” sense of sympathize is not shared with empathize.

Derived terms[edit]

Related terms[edit]