AskDefine | Define sympathy

Dictionary Definition



1 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" [syn: understanding]
2 sharing the feelings of others (especially feelings of sorrow or anguish) [syn: fellow feeling]
3 a relation of affinity or harmony between people; whatever affects one correspondingly affects the other; "the two of them were in close sympathy"

User Contributed Dictionary



From sympathie < sympathia < συμπάθεια (sympatheia) "sympathy, affinity" < συμπαθής (sympathēs) "having a fellow feeling" < prefix συμ- (sym-), variant of συν- (syn-) "with, in company with, together with" + παθέω (patheo) "to have a secondary affection" < πάσχω (pascho) "to be affected by, to suffer" < base *kwenth- ("to suffer," "to endure").


  • /ˈsɪmpəθi/


  1. A feeling of pity or sorrow for the suffering or distress of another; compassion.
  2. The ability to share the feelings of another; empathy.
  3. In the context of "psychology": A mutual relationship between people such that they are correspondingly affected by any condition.
  4. In the context of "physiology": A mutual relationship between organs such that a condition of one part causes an effect in the other.

Related terms


feeling of pity or sorrow for the suffering or distress of another
ability to share the feelings of another; empathy
psychology: mutual relationship between people such that they are correspondingly affected by any condition
physiology: mutual relationship between organs such that a condition of one part causes an effect in the other

Extensive Definition

Sympathy is a social affinity in which one person stands with another person, closely understanding his or her feelings. The word derives from the Greek συμπάθεια (sympatheia), from συν (syn) "together" + πάθος (pathos), in this case "suffering" (from πάσχω - pascho, "to be affected by, to suffer"). It also can mean being affected by like feelings or emotions. Thus the essence of sympathy is that one has a strong concern for the other person. Sympathy should not be confused with empathy (more than simply the recognition of another's suffering, sympathy is actually sharing another's suffering, if only briefly).
Sympathy exists when the feelings or emotions of one person are deeply understood and even appreciated by another person. In common usage, sympathy is usually making known one's understanding of another's unhappiness or suffering, but it can also refer to being aware of other (positive) emotions as well. In a broader sense, it can refer to the sharing of political or ideological sentiments, such as in the phrase "a communist sympathizer".
The psychological state of sympathy is closely linked with that of compassion and empathy.


sympathy in Danish: Sympati
sympathy in German: Sympathie
sympathy in Estonian: Kaastunne
sympathy in Italian: Simpatia
sympathy in Japanese: 同情
sympathy in Norwegian: Sympati
sympathy in Polish: Sympatia
sympathy in Russian: Сочувствие
sympathy in Simple English: Sympathy
sympathy in Slovak: Sympatia
sympathy in Serbian: Симпатија
sympathy in Swedish: Sympati

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

abetment, accord, accordance, addition, adduction, adjunct, advocacy, aegis, affairs, affectionateness, affections, affective faculty, affectivity, affiliation, affinity, agape, agreement, aid and comfort, allergy, alliance, allurement, amity, an in, anaphylaxis, approximation, assemblage, association, assurance, attractance, attraction, attractiveness, attractivity, auspices, backing, balm, benevolence, benignancy, benignity, bent, bias, blending, bond, bonds of harmony, brotherhood, brotherly love, camaraderie, capillarity, capillary attraction, care, caring, caritas, cement of friendship, centripetal force, championship, charity, chiming, chord, clemency, closeness, combination, comfort, commiseration, communion, community, community of interests, compassion, compatibility, concern, concord, concordance, condolement, condolence, congeniality, connectedness, connection, considerateness, consolation, consonant, contiguity, contrariety, correspondence, countenance, dealings, deduction, delicacy, disjunction, drag, draw, easement, echo, emotional life, emotions, empathy, encouragement, esprit, esprit de corps, exquisiteness, fancy, fascination, favor, favorable regard, feeling, feeling of identity, feeling of kinship, feeling tone, feelings, fellow feeling, fellowship, filiation, fineness, finer feelings, forbearance, forgiveness, fosterage, fraternal feeling, frictionlessness, friendly relations, good graces, good terms, good understanding, good vibes, good vibrations, goodness, goodness of heart, goodwill, grace, graciousness, gravitation, gravity, guidance, happy family, harmonic, harmony, heart, heart of gold, homology, humaneness, humanity, hyperesthesia, hyperpathia, hypersensitivity, identification, identity, inclination, intercourse, interest, intimacy, involvement, irritability, junction, kindheartedness, kindliness, kindly disposition, kindness, kinship, leaning, leniency, liaison, like-mindedness, link, linkage, linking, love, loving kindness, magnetism, mercy, mitigation, musical, mutual affinity, mutual attraction, mutual regard, mutuality, nearness, nervousness, niceness, oneness, oversensibility, oversensitiveness, overtenderness, pardon, partiality, passibility, passions, pathos, patronage, peace, penchant, perceptiveness, perceptivity, photophobia, pity, predilection, preference, prickliness, proclivity, propensity, propinquity, proximity, pull, pulling power, quarter, rapport, rapprochement, reassurance, reciprocity, regard, relatedness, relating, relation, relations, relationship, relief, reprieve, respect, response, responsiveness, rue, ruth, seconding, self-pity, sensibilities, sensitiveness, sensitivity, sensitization, sentiments, sharing, sharing of grief, shred of comfort, similarity, softheartedness, solace, solacement, solicitousness, solidarity, soothing words, soreness, soul of kindness, sponsorship, supersensitivity, support, susceptibilities, sympathetic chord, sympathetic response, sympathies, symphonic, symphonious, symphony, tact, tactfulness, team spirit, tender susceptibilities, tenderheartedness, tenderness, tetchiness, thin skin, ticklishness, tie, tie-in, touchiness, traction, tug, turn, tutelage, understanding, union, unison, unity, vibes, vibrations, warmheartedness, warmth, warmth of heart
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