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From sym- +‎ -pathy, borrowed from Middle French sympathie, from Late Latin sympathīa, from Ancient Greek συμπάθεια (sumpátheia), from σύν (sún, with, together) + πάθος (páthos, suffering).


  • IPA(key): /ˈsɪmpəθi/
  • (file)


sympathy (countable and uncountable, plural sympathies)

  1. A feeling of pity or sorrow for the suffering or distress of another; compassion.
    • 2018, Sergeant first class Gregory Stube, Conquer Anything
      If you want sympathy you’ll find it in the dictionary between shit and syphilis. Sympathy may pay well in the short term, but if you cash in on sympathy, it will take everything from you in the long run.
  2. The ability to share the feelings of another.
  3. A mutual relationship between people or things such that they are correspondingly affected by any condition.
    • 1858, William Whewell, History of the Inductive Sciences
      He observed, also, the frequent sympathy of volcanic and terremotive action in remote districts of the earth's surface, thus showing how deeply seated must be the cause of these convulsions.
    • 1936, Rollo Ahmed, The Black Art, London: Long, page 121:
      A peculiarity of were-animals is the sympathy that exists between their animal form and that of the human with whom it is connected.
    • 1997, Chris Horrocks, Introducing Foucault, page 67, The Renaissance Episteme (Totem Books, Icon Books; →ISBN
      'Sympathy' likened anything to anything else in universal attraction, e.g. the fate of men to the course of the planets.
  4. Tendency towards or approval of the aims of a movement.
    Many people in Hollywood were blacklisted merely because they were suspected of Communist sympathies.
  5. Artistic harmony, as of shape or colour in a painting.

Usage notes[edit]

  • Used similarly to empathy, interchangeably in looser usage. In stricter usage, empathy is stronger and more intimate, while sympathy is weaker and more distant; see empathy: usage notes.


Derived terms[edit]


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.