Sympathy Meaning: Here’s What It Means and How to Use It

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When someone experiences sorrow, showing sympathy is a noble gesture that can somewhat generate a feeling of support. That said, what exactly does the word sympathy mean, and how does it differ from empathy? Not to worry — we’ll tell you. 

In this article, we’re diving into the world of terminology to uncover everything you need to know about the word sympathy. So if you’ve ever wondered what it means to be sympathetic — keep reading. Here’s our complete guide on the word sympathy (ˈsɪmpəθi). 

What Is the Definition of Sympathy?

According to the Collins English Dictionary, if you have sympathy for another individual who is stuck in an unfavorable situation, you feel sorry for them. In other words, it’s when you feel bad for someone who is going through a tough time. 

Additionally, as per the Cambridge English Dictionary, sympathy can be used as both a noun and an adjective. To clear up all confusion on the meaning behind sympathy, we have compiled a list, which you’ll find below, of various definitions of sympathy.

  • Noun — The state or act of feeling compassion or sorrow for someone
  • Noun — An agreement of emotions or feelings between multiple people or even on the part of one towards another; most commonly based on shared understandings, feelings, and oftentimes similar tastes as well
  • Noun — Plural form sympathies (as in you have our sympathies) — Feeling of loyalty, favor, or support; additionally, in its plural form, sympathy can be used to express impulses or feelings of compassion
  • Adjective — expressing sympathy 

The key takeaway here is that the meaning behind the word sympathy is the capacity, practice, or tendency to share in the feelings of others; most commonly their sorrow, unfulfilled desires, as well as distress. 

What Is the Etymology of Sympathy?

The word origin behind the term sympathy can be a little confusing. So to help you better understand, we’ve compiled a list of the various derivatives of our word of the day below:

  • Latin sympathīa
  • Greek sumpatheia 
  • Greek sympátheia
  • Greek/Hebrew sumpathēs
  • Greek prefix syn- + Greek pathos

What Are the Synonyms and Antonyms of Sympathy?

Many people are under the impression that the words sympathy and empathy are interchangeable, but the truth is that they’re not. 

In short, our word of the day involves understanding from one’s own perspective. Empathy, on the other hand, involves putting yourself in another person’s shoes and understanding why they may have certain feelings.

As you can see, sympathy and empathy are not synonymous. That said, let’s take a look at some true synonyms (and antonyms!) of the word sympathy:


  • Kind heartedness
  • Good nature
  • Commiseration
  • Compassion
  • Pity 
  • Tender heartedness
  • Warm heartedness
  • Comfort 
  • Consolation 
  • Good heartedness
  • Shared feeling
  • Solace
  • Tenderness 
  • Mutual relationship 
  • Fellow feeling
  • Condolence 
  • Close relation
  • Encouragement 
  • Sensitivity
  • Support
  • Caring 
  • Mutual fondness
  • Like mindedness
  • Esprit de corps
  • Concern
  • Consideration
  • Feeling
  • Kindness 
  • Commiseration 
  • Good naturalness
  • Link
  • Kinship
  • Unity
  • Correspondence
  • Congeniality 
  • Good humor
  • Solicitousness
  • Solicitude 
  • Understanding
  • Aroha
  • Charity 
  • Mutual understanding 
  • Good fellowship
  • Heart
  • Mercy
  • Ruth
  • Rue
  • Humanity
  • Rue 
  • Easy going manner
  • Lack of inhibition
  • Lack of reservation
  • Affinity
  • Harmony
  • Rapport
  • Accord 
  • Open arms 
  • Meeting of minds
  • Soft spot 


  • Cold bloodedness
  • Callousness
  • Heartlessness
  • Indifference
  • Inhumanity 
  • Cold heartedness
  • Hard heartedness
  • Contempt
  • Dissimilitude 
  • Disunity 
  • Stony heartedness
  • Lack of feeling
  • Reproach
  • Remonstration
  • Reproof
  • Odium 
  • Empty headedness
  • Half knowledge
  • Variance
  • Hatred
  • Dislike 
  • Hardness of heart
  • Nasty behavior 
  • Temperance
  • Abstention 
  • Strictness
  • Superficiality 
  • Aversion
  • Loathing
  • Antipathy
  • Detestation 
  • Self-centeredness
  • Self-indulgence
  • Self-interest
  • Polarity
  • Conflict
  • Unlikeness 
  • Self-regard
  • Self-worship

How Can You Use Sympathy in a Sentence?

By now, you should have a much better grasp on our word of the day — so why not put your newfound knowledge to the test?! Quiz yourself to see how many complete sentences you can come up with using the word sympathy.

Still a little confused? Check out these excellent sentences examples listed below:

She was really able to express her sympathy for the victims, as she too, even if she had never experienced the trauma they had gone through 

The author was truly able to bring his characters to life; you really feel sympathy for them as they go through turmoil. 

The sympathy card your family gave to my mother really brought her out of her slump, and for the first time in a while, I even saw a glimmer of a smile. 

Your inability to understand how a person feels or even see their point of view really worries me… do you have no understanding of sympathy towards others?

Personally, I don’t have much sympathy for Roger. I think he brought his troubles on himself, and it’s honestly not my problem.

What Are Translations of Sympathy?

Now that you understand what sympathy means, let’s explore some common translations:

  • American English — sympathy 
  • Arabic — تَعَاطُف 
  • Brazilian Portuguese — compaixão 
  • Chinese (simplified) — 同情心 
  • Croatian — simpatija 
  • Czech — soucit
  • British English — sympathy 
  • Danish — sympati 
  • Dutch — sympathie 
  • European Spanish — lástima compasión
  • Finnish — sympatia 
  • French — compassion 
  • German — Mitgefühl 
  • Greek — συμπόνια 
  • Italian — comprensione 
  • Japanese — 同情 
  • Korean — 동정 
  • Norwegian — sympati 
  • Polish — sympatia 
  • European Portuguese — compaixão 
  • Romanian — compasiune
  • Russian — сочувствие 
  • Spanish — lástima 
  • British English — sympathy
  • Swedish — sympati 
  • Thai — ความเห็นใจ 
  • Turkish — halden anlama 
  • Ukrainian — співчуття
  • Vietnamese — sự thông cảm


To touch base once more, sympathy can be used to reference a sense of compassion but also a feeling of pity for another. 

Our ability to feel sympathy for another, that compelling or urge to help another — to reach out and give them that helping hand they so desperately need — not only is that sympathy, but it’s just another amazing part of what makes us human. 


Sympathy definition and meaning | Collins English Dictionary

SYMPATHY | definition | Cambridge English Dictionary

“Empathy” vs. “Sympathy”: Which Word To Use And When |