Compassion Meaning: Here’s What It Means and How To Use It

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“Compassion is the wish to see others free from suffering.” — Dalai Lama. 

In a world that’s shrouded in fear and uncertainty due to things like war, inflation, and disease, showing compassion is more important than ever. That said, what exactly does the word compassion mean? 

This article covers the definition of compassion, its origin, synonyms, and more. 

What Is the Definition of Compassion?

/kəmˈpæʃ.ən/ /kəmˈpæʃ.ən/

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, the word compassion is the ability to recognize the suffering of others and then take action to help. It encompasses feelings of love and empathy along with a desire to help those in need.  

Put another way, compassion, pronounced kuhm-pash-uhn, portrays a tangible expression of love for those around you who are suffering.

Are Compassion, Altruism, and Empathy the Same?

While they are closely related, empathy, altruism, and compassion are not the same concepts. Empathy relates closer to the feeling you get to help others, the ability we possess to take the perspective of another and feel their emotions. 

Compassion is different in that the thoughts and feelings we have for one another also include the desire to help them. 

Lastly, although often prompted by feelings of compassion, altruism is a kind of selfless behavior. Though usually driven by compassion, with altruism, one can feel “compassion” without acting on it.

To learn more about words and phrases similar to compassion, check out our helpful blog

What Is the Etymology of Compassion?

First recorded in the 14th century, the Latin root for our word of the day is pati, meaning “to suffer,” and the prefix com- meaning “with.” With this in mind, compassion — originating from compati — literally means “to suffer with.”

What Are the Synonyms and Antonyms of Compassion?

Now that you understand compassion is the humane quality of understanding the suffering of others, let’s review some synonyms and antonyms. 

A synonym is a word that has the same — or almost the same — meaning as another word. Synonyms of compassion include:

  • Compassion fatigue 
  • Soft heartedness 
  • Sympathy 
  • Pity
  • Fellow feeling
  • Brotherly love
  • Humanity
  • Warm heartedness
  • Concern
  • Feeling
  • Aroha 
  • Philanthropism 
  • Lenity
  • Charitability 
  • Have one’s heart go out to 
  • Goodwill
  • Good fellowship
  • Neighborly love
  • Regard
  • Heart
  • Consideration 

On the other hand, antonyms are words with an opposite meaning to another word. Antonyms of compassion include:

  • Indifference 
  • Lack of charity
  • Cold heartedness 
  • Mercilessness 
  • Nonchalance
  • Extreme dislike
  • Heedlessness
  • Be indifferent
  • Turn away 
  • Unconcern
  • Lack of regard
  • Hard feelings
  • Insensitivity 
  • Callousness
  • Ill feeling
  • Disinterest 
  • Coolness
  • Bad blood
  • Ill will 
  • Distaste 
  • Casualness 
  • Lack of concern

How Can You Use Compassion in a Sentence?

Compassion is a deep awareness of and sympathy for another person’s pain and suffering — but how is it used in a sentence? Here are a few usage examples for you to study below: 

“In class, we dug into the differences between altruism, empathy, and compassion today.”

“I’ve heard of people lacking compassion, but after all the terrible turns my life has taken, she has avoided me like the plague.” 

“Look, I understand that you’re frustrated, but would it kill you to show just a little more compassion?”

“Even after all her failures, compassion was burning in her eyes.”

“Did the drunk driver feel any compassion for the victim’s family?”

“If you ask me, compassion makes the world go round.”

“Bill is known as a stone-cold man with no compassion.”

“Have you no compassion?”

“This trying situation must be handled delicate — with lots of love, patience, and compassion.”

“Hold on — are you saying you have no compassion for the families who lost their homes in the wildfire?”

“I could tell that his mind changed from compassion to vengeance when his eyes flickered black.”

“Genuine compassion is what’s needed in the world today — not fake support provided by people hidden behind computer screens.”

“My dad had compassion for the lonely stray dog, so he gave him a bath and a warm bed.”

“I was dealing with some compassion exhaustion, but I believe it’s turned into compassion fatigue — in other words, I’m experiencing burnout.”

“Acting on feelings of compassion can surely benefit others.”

“According to the American monk Bhikku Bodhi, compassion supplies the complement to loving-kindness.”

“I forgot my thesaurus at home, so if you could be a dear and show me some compassion by letting me borrow yours, I’d be extremely grateful.”

What Are Translations of Compassion?

Thinking about taking a vacation to a non-English speaking country? Here are some of the most common translations of compassion:

  • Chinese (Traditional) — 同情,憐憫,惻隱之心
  • Spanish — compasión
  • Ukrainian — жалість, співчуття
  • Italian — compassione
  • Thai — ความเห็นใจ, ความเห็นอกเห็นใจ
  • German — Mitgefühl
  • Portuguese — compaixão
  • Japanese — 思いやり
  • Chinese (Simplified) — 同情,怜悯,恻隐之心
  • Russian — сострадание, сочувствие
  • Korean — 연민, 동정
  • Norwegian — medlidenhet, medynk, barmhjertighet


When taken literally, the word compassion means to suffer together. It is a feeling that only arises once you are met with the adversity of another individual’s struggles and feel compelled to relieve them of those struggles and suffering. 

Compassion is a positive emotion that has to do with being a genuinely good person. It involves feeling another person’s pain and wanting to do what you can to soothe that pain and improve their overall well-being. 


COMPASSION : definition | Cambridge English Dictionary 

Compassion, n. | Oxford English Dictionary

​​ALTRUISM | Cambridge English Dictionary