from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun A feeling of pity or sorrow for the distress of another; commiseration. synonym: pity.
  • noun An expression of such feeling.
  • noun Mutual understanding or feeling between people.
  • noun Agreement with or support for an opinion or position.
  • noun A tendency to support a position or opinion.
  • noun A relationship or affinity between things in which whatever affects one correspondingly affects the other.
  • noun Physics A relation between bodies such that vibrations in one body cause sympathetic vibrations in another.
  • noun Physiology A relation between parts or organs by which a disease or disorder in one induces an effect in the other.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • To sympathize.
  • noun Feeling identical with or resembling that which another feels; the quality or state of being affected with feelings or emotions corresponding in kind if not in degree to those which another experiences: said of pleasure or pain, but especially of the latter; fellow-feeling; commiseration; compassion.
  • noun An agreement of affections or inclinations, or a conformity of natural disposition which makes two persons agreeable each to the other; mutual or reciprocal inclination or affection; sympathetic interest: in this sense commonly followed by with: as, to have sympathy with a person in his hopes, aspirations, or aims.
  • noun In physiology and pathology: That state of an organ or a tissue which has a certain relation to the condition of another organ or tissue in health and disease; a related state of the vital manifestations or actions in different organs or tissues, such that when one part is excited or affected others are also affected; that relation of the organs and parts of a living body to each other whereby a disordered condition of one part induces more or less disorder in another part: as, for example, the pain in the brow caused by taking a draught of cold water into the stomach, the pain in the right shoulder arising from disease of the liver, or the irritation and vomiting produced by a tumor of the brain.
  • noun The influence which the physiological or pathological state of one individual has in producing the same or an analogous state in another at the same time or in rapid succession, as exemplified in the hysterical convulsions which affect a number of women on seeing one of their companions suffering from hysteria, or the yawning produced by seeing an other yawn.
  • noun Physical action at a distance (so used by old writers against astrology, who argue that the influence of the stars is not physical sympathy and not moral sympathy, and therefore does not exist at all): as, the sympathy between the lodestone and iron.
  • noun In acoustics, the fact, condition, or result of such a relation between two vibratile bodies that when one is thrown into vibration the other tends to vibrate in a similar or related way, in consequence of the vibrations communicated to it through the air or some other medium.
  • noun Affinity, harmony.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun 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.
  • noun An agreement of affections or inclinations, or a conformity of natural temperament, which causes persons to be pleased, or in accord, with one another.
  • noun Kindness of feeling toward one who suffers; pity; commiseration; compassion.
  • noun 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.
  • noun The influence of a certain psychological state in one person in producing a like state in another.
  • noun rare A tendency of inanimate things to unite, or to act on each other.
  • noun Similarity of function, use office, or the like.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun A feeling of pity or sorrow for the suffering or distress of another; compassion.
  • noun The ability to share the feelings of another;
  • noun A mutual relationship between people or things such that they are correspondingly affected by any condition.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • noun sharing the feelings of others (especially feelings of sorrow or anguish)
  • noun a relation of affinity or harmony between people; whatever affects one correspondingly affects the other
  • noun an inclination to support or be loyal to or to agree with an opinion


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Latin sympathīa, natural affinity, fellow feeling, from Greek sumpatheia, from sumpathēs, affected by like feelings : sun-, syn- + pathos, emotion; see kwent(h)- in Indo-European roots.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Middle French sympathie, from Late Latin sympathia, from Ancient Greek συμπάθεια (sumpatheia), from σύν (sun, "with, together") + πάθος (pathos, "suffering").


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  • Some play on the image of the troubled and traumatized veteran, even using it to win sympathy from a judge or jury.

    Heroes or Villains? 2010

  • It is my belief that she is trying to gain sympathy from the Republican conservative base, as the "poor Sarah, everyone picks on me."

    Rove: Palin's resignation lacks clear strategy 2009

  • My main sympathy is for the woman and children of Sodom.

    Wisdom, Justice And Mercy Hal Duncan 2006

  • To paraphrase his satyrical entry at the Reagan Wing, Doug alleges that Mike! faked or made up this DUI or at least preemptively announced it as a devious ploy to gain sympathy from the electorate.

    Sound Politics: Last Call 2006

  • In 'The Theory of Moral Sentiments, published in 1759, Adam Smith boldly recast the question of virtue in terms of what we now call empathy but which he called sympathy.

    The Magical Mystery Show of Consciousness Matt Ridley 2011

  • Perhaps he liked it; — but any man endowed with that power of appreciation which we call sympathy, would have felt it to be as cold as though it had come from a figure on a glass window.

    The American Senator 2004

  • Who can tell what metals the gods use in forging the subtle bond which we call sympathy, which we might as well call love.

    The Awakening 2000

  • The moment in the story where their sympathy is aroused is the swallowing of the kids, because the children do realize the possibility of being disposed of in the mother's absence.

    The Art of the Story-Teller 1915

  • She is filled with curiosity, which she calls sympathy with the simple, stern religion; and this Müller, who goes about preaching, is now at Tübingen.

    A German Pompadour Being the Extraordinary History of Wilhelmine van Grävenitz, Landhofmeisterin of Wirtemberg 1905

  • Who can tell what metals the gods use in forging the subtle bond which we call sympathy, which we might as well call love.

    The Awakening 1899


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  • In that case unprecendented

    Single I shall live and die,

    I shall have to be contented

    With your heartfelt sympathy.

    -- several characters at different moments in Gilbert & Sullivan's "Patience"; it is pronounced there to rhyme with 'die', which apparently used to be a valid pronunciation.

    August 20, 2008

  • "to vibrate in sympathy" (usually referred to musical instruments, e.g. strings).

    p.s. i love my tiny wooden turtle whose head is hypersensitive and oscillates with the slightest vibrations :-)

    September 12, 2008

  • Heehee! What a nice note. :-)

    September 12, 2008

  • and here she is, right on my desktop :-))

    although you can't see it, i assure you she's vibrating in sympathy with my every keyboard stroke :-D

    September 12, 2008

  • I have one of these! Oh, I love it! It's almost as nice as my desk llama. :)

    September 12, 2008

  • Desk llamas and desk turtles? I'm envious.

    September 12, 2008

  • From:

    Empathy is the ability to mutually experience the thoughts, emotions, and direct experience of others. It goes beyond sympathy, which is a feeling of care and understanding for the suffering of others. Both words have similar usage but differ in their emotional meaning.



    Definition Understanding what others are feeling because you have experienced it yourself or can put yourself in their shoes. Acknowledging another person's emotional hardships and providing comfort and assurance.

    Example I know it's not easy to lose weight because I have faced the same problems myself. When people try to make changes like this (e.g. lose some weight) at first it seems difficult.

    Relationship Personal Friends, family and community ( the experience of others) .

    Nursing context Relating with your patient because you have been in a similar situation or experience Comforting your patient or their family

    Scope Personal, It can be one to many in some circumstances From either one to another person or one to many (or one to a group).


    1 Emotional differences

    2 Origin of the words

    3 Relationship

    4 Examples of empathy and sympathy

    5 Empathy as a communication skill

    6 Video explaining the differences

    Emotional differences

    Sympathy essentially implies a feeling of recognition of another's suffering while empathy is actually sharing another's suffering, if only briefly. Empathy is often characterized as the ability to "put oneself into another's shoes". So empathy is a deeper emotional experience.

    Empathy develops into an unspoken understanding and mutual decision making that is unquestioned, and forms the basis of tribal community. Sympathy may be positive or negative, in the sense that it attracts a perceived quality to a perceived self identity, or it gives love and assistance to the unfortunate and needy.

    Origin of the words

    Sympathy comes from Middle French sympathie, from Late Latin sympathia, from Ancient Greek συμπάθεια (sumpatheia), from σύν (sun, “with, together”) + πάθος (pathos, “suffering”).

    The word 'empathy' is a twentieth-century borrowing of Ancient Greek ἐμπάθεια (empatheia, literally “passion”) (formed from ἐν (en-, “in, at”) + πάθος (pathos, “feeling”)), coined by Edward Bradford Titchener to translate German Einfühlung. The modern Greek word εμπάθεια has an opposite meaning denoting strong negative feelings and prejudice against someone.


    Compassion can form a base for both empathy and sympathy, and each may be seen as aspects of wisdom, or the means through which wisdom is synthesized. Sympathy also involves caring, but a compassionate sense of assistance and protection for those who are poor and less fortunate. Empathy is expressed when trying to feel someone else’s feeling who generally is known to you.

    Examples of empathy and sympathy

    To quote an example here: A man goes to hear a lecture. He may hold the following opinions after the encore.

    Empathy: "I understand the writer's empathetic study of the subject."

    Sympathy: "I can only sympathize with the writer's total lack of knowledge."

    It is possible to be empathetic and not sympathetic at the same time. For example: If a person gambles and loses all his money, you may feel empathetic and try to analyze the reason for doing so but you will not be sympathetic towards him as it is his fault entirely in losing the money. On the other hand, you can both empathize and sympathize at the same point. If someone loses a loved one to a disease, you will feel sympathy for them and, if you have ever lost a loved one yourself, you are likely to empathize with their position.

    Another example that captures the difference between empathy and sympathy: "When I think about the abuse the serial killer endured as a child, I feel empathy, however I simply cannot sympathize with the choices he made as an adult."

    When one exhibits empathy a person doesn't necessarily have to agree with the conclusions being drawn by the person who they are empathizing with. For example, one may empathize with the loss of a loved one but may not agree with another person that the loss be avenged violently.

    Empathy as a communication skill

    Empathy can be employed as a communication skill. Empathy can allow great communicators to sense the emotions of an audience and is the mutual understanding and inspiration communicated to the audience. A lack of empathy involves a poor sense of communication that fails to understand the perspective of the audience. An audience may feel a positive or negative sympathy to both the communicator and the message as it is transmitted in communication. Empathy can also be found in the artist, musician, and drama, as well as the audience.

    January 22, 2014