What does sympathy mean?

Definitions for sympathy
ˈsɪm pə θisym·pa·thy

This dictionary definitions page includes all the possible meanings, example usage and translations of the word sympathy.

Princeton's WordNet

  1. sympathy, understandingnoun

    an inclination to support or be loyal to or to agree with an opinion

    "his sympathies were always with the underdog"; "I knew I could count on his understanding"

  2. sympathy, fellow feelingnoun

    sharing the feelings of others (especially feelings of sorrow or anguish)

  3. sympathynoun

    a relation of affinity or harmony between people; whatever affects one correspondingly affects the other

    "the two of them were in close sympathy"


  1. Sympathynoun

    (Physiol. & Med.) (a) The reciprocal influence exercised by organs or parts on one another, as shown in the effects of a diseased condition of one part on another part or organ, as in the vomiting produced by a tumor of the brain. (b) The influence of a certain psychological state in one person in producing a like state in another. In the original 1890 work, sense (b) was described as:


  1. sympathynoun

    A feeling of pity or sorrow for the suffering or distress of another; compassion.

  2. sympathynoun

    The ability to share the feelings of another;

  3. sympathynoun

    A mutual relationship between people or things such that they are correspondingly affected by any condition.

  4. Etymology: From sympathie, from sympathia, from συμπάθεια, from σύν + πάθος.

Samuel Johnson's Dictionary

  1. SYMPATHYnoun

    Fellowfeeling; mutual sensibility; the quality of being affected by the affection of another.

    Etymology: sympathie, French; συμϖάϑεια.

    A world of earthly blessings to my soul,
    If sympathy of love unite our thoughts. William Shakespeare, H. VI.

    You are not young; no more am I: go to, then, there’s sympathy: you are merry, so am I; ha! ha! then there’s more sympathy: you love sack, and so do I; would you desire better sympathy? William Shakespeare, Merry Wives of Windsor.

    But what it is,
    The action of my life is like it, which I’ll keep,
    If but for sympathy. William Shakespeare, Cymbeline.

    If there was a sympathy in choice,
    War, death, or sickness did lay siege to it. William Shakespeare.

    I started back;
    It started back: but pleas’d I soon return’d;
    Pleas’d it return’d as soon, with answering looks
    Of sympathy and love. John Milton, Paradise Lost.

    They saw, but other sight instead, a crowd
    Of ugly serpents: horror on them fell,
    And horrid sympathy. John Milton.

    Or sympathy, or some connat’ral force,
    Pow’rful at greatest distance to unite,
    With secret amity, things of like kind,
    By secretest conveyance. John Milton, Paradise Lost.

    There never was any heart truly great and generous, that was not also tender and compassionate: it is this noble quality that makes all men to be of one kind; for every man would be a distinct species to himself, were there no sympathy among individuals. Robert South, Sermons.

    Can kindness to desert, like your’s, be strange?
    Kindness by secret sympathy is ty’d;
    For noble souls in nature are ally’d. Dryden.

    There are such associations made in the minds of most men, and to this might be attributed most of the sympathies and antipathies observable in them. John Locke.


  1. Sympathy

    Sympathy is the perception of, understanding of, and reaction to the distress or need of another life form. According to David Hume, this sympathetic concern is driven by a switch in viewpoint from a personal perspective to the perspective of another group or individual who is in need. Hume explained that this is the case because "the minds of all men are similar in their feelings and operations" and that "the motion of one communicates itself to the rest" so that as "affections readily pass from one person to another… they beget correspondent movements."


  1. sympathy

    Sympathy is an emotional response characterized by feelings of pity, compassion, or understanding towards another person or entity, particularly in situations where they are experiencing misfortune, hardship, suffering, or pain. It often leads to the desire to alleviate or reduce such negative experiences faced by the person or entity.

Webster Dictionary

  1. Sympathynoun

    feeling corresponding to that which another feels; the quality of being affected by the affection of another, with feelings correspondent in kind, if not in degree; fellow-feeling

  2. Sympathynoun

    an agreement of affections or inclinations, or a conformity of natural temperament, which causes persons to be pleased, or in accord, with one another; as, there is perfect sympathy between them

  3. Sympathynoun

    kindness of feeling toward one who suffers; pity; commiseration; compassion

  4. Sympathynoun

    the reciprocal influence exercised by the various organs or parts of the body on one another, as manifested in the transmission of a disease by unknown means from one organ to another quite remote, or in the influence exerted by a diseased condition of one part on another part or organ, as in the vomiting produced by a tumor of the brain

  5. Sympathynoun

    that relation which exists between different persons by which one of them produces in the others a state or condition like that of himself. This is shown in the tendency to yawn which a person often feels on seeing another yawn, or the strong inclination to become hysteric experienced by many women on seeing another person suffering with hysteria

  6. Sympathynoun

    a tendency of inanimate things to unite, or to act on each other; as, the sympathy between the loadstone and iron

  7. Sympathynoun

    similarity of function, use office, or the like

  8. Etymology: [F. sympathie, L. sympathia, Gr. ; sy`n with + suffering, passion, fr. , , to suffer. See Syn-, and Pathos.]


  1. Sympathy

    Sympathy is a feeling and concern. Or it can be the perception, understanding, and reaction to the distress or need of another human being. This empathic concern is driven by a switch in viewpoint, from a personal perspective to the perspective of another group or individual who is in need. Empathy and sympathy are often used interchangeably. Sympathy is a feeling, but the two terms have distinct origins and meanings. Empathy refers to the understanding and sharing of a specific emotional state with another person. Sympathy does not require the sharing of the same emotional state. Instead, sympathy is a concern for the well-being of another. Although sympathy may begin with empathizing with the same emotion another person is feeling, sympathy can be extended to other emotional states.

Chambers 20th Century Dictionary

  1. Sympathy

    sim′pa-thi, n. like feeling: an agreement of inclination, feeling, or sensation: compassion: pity: tenderness: an agreement of affections or inclinations, or a conformity of natural temperament: mutual conformity of parts in the fine arts: correspondence of parts in similar sensations or affections, or the affection of the whole body or system, or some part of it, in consequence of local injury or disease: propensity of inanimate bodies to union or mutual action: the effective union of colours.—adjs. Sympathet′ic, -al, showing, or inclined to, sympathy: feeling with another: able to sympathise: compassionate: produced by sympathy: uniting viscera and blood-vessels in a nervous action common to them all: noting sounds induced by vibrations conveyed through air, &c., from a body already in vibration.—adv. Sympathet′ically.—n. Sympathet′icism, undue disipostion to be sympathetic.—v.i. Sym′pathise, to have sympathy: to feel with or for another: to be compassionate.—ns. Sym′pathiser; Sym′pathism; Sym′pathist.—Sympathetic ink (see Ink). [Gr. sympatheiasyn, with, pathos, suffering.]

The Roycroft Dictionary

  1. sympathy

    1. A malady that sometimes afflicts the rich. 2. The lees of the wine-cup offered to another. 3. An impulse toward ourselves through the heart of another. 4. Whatever may be extended to another that does not take the shape of money. 5. The sum of all virtues. 6. The first attribute of love as well as its last. (I am not sure but that sympathy is love's own self, vitalized mayhap by some divine actinic ray. Only the souls who have suffered are well loved.)

The Foolish Dictionary, by Gideon Wurdz


    Feeling for others; very noticeable in Blind Man's Buff.

Suggested Resources

  1. Sympathy

    Sympathy vs. Empathy -- In this Grammar.com article you will learn the differences between the words Sympathy and Empathy.

Matched Categories

British National Corpus

  1. Spoken Corpus Frequency

    Rank popularity for the word 'sympathy' in Spoken Corpus Frequency: #4282

  2. Written Corpus Frequency

    Rank popularity for the word 'sympathy' in Written Corpus Frequency: #4633

  3. Nouns Frequency

    Rank popularity for the word 'sympathy' in Nouns Frequency: #1622

How to pronounce sympathy?

How to say sympathy in sign language?


  1. Chaldean Numerology

    The numerical value of sympathy in Chaldean Numerology is: 9

  2. Pythagorean Numerology

    The numerical value of sympathy in Pythagorean Numerology is: 1

Examples of sympathy in a Sentence

  1. Pyotr Kravchanka:

    The bitter truth is that it is only now, four and a half years later, that we are finally and with tremendous difficulty making a breach in the wall of indifference, silence and lack of sympathy, and for this we ourselves are largely to blame.

  2. Andrew Cuomodirected:

    On behalf of all New Yorkers, I extend our deepest sympathy toSpc. Abigail Jenks'family and loved ones, we are devastated by her loss and join her fellow soldiers, family and friends in honoring her service to our country.

  3. Alaska GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski:

    That signaled sympathy for the core of Trumps defense teams argument, which is that even if President Trump did condition foreign aid on an investigation of a political opponent, such conduct would not justify the removal of a president by The Senate in an election year. Leaving the chamber, Alaska GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski told Fox News, I am going to go reflect on what I have heard, re-read my notes and decide whether I need to hear more.

  4. Donald Trump:

    The damage inflicted by President Trump's naiveté, egotism, false equivalence, and sympathy for autocrats is difficult to calculate.

  5. Amanda Gilchrist:

    What I can tell you is we have deep sympathy for the family and the tragic loss of their child six weeks after leaving the facility, we care about every person entrusted to us, especially vulnerable populations for which our partners rightfully have very high standards that we work hard to meet each day.

Popularity rank by frequency of use


Translations for sympathy

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"sympathy." Definitions.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2024. Web. 2 Mar. 2024. <https://www.definitions.net/definition/sympathy>.

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    expressing yourself easily or characterized by clear expressive language
    • A. articulate
    • B. contiguous
    • C. elusive
    • D. equivalent

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