Empathy vs. Sympathy, Etymological Origin, Mean, Difference between Sympathy and Empathy

Empathy and compassion

Like I mentioned earlier, most confusing words are also some of the most commonly used English words. That’s what confuses them even more.

But just like everyone else, if you know the meaning of words and their contextual application, then things are easy for you.

To make the whole process easier, we present this series of posts.

Here, we will see “empathy” and “compassion”.

Empathy is understanding and sharing the experiences, feelings, and emotions of another personSympathy is sharing someone else’s feelings, when they have feelings of sorrow or trouble.
E.g., It is not difficult to empathize with Suzanne as we knew her the longestE.g., The teacher was particularly sympathetic towards his hardships

Etymology of sympathy:

The word appeared in the 16th century and comes from Latin, which has its origin in the Greek “sumpatheia”, from “sumpathēs”

Etymology of empathy:

The word dates back to the early 20th century, and it comes from the Greek word “empatheia” (from em-“in” + pathos “feeling”).

What is compassion?

As mentioned earlier, the word comes from Greek and means “to feel”. You can easily use this word to describe the way we usually share other people’s feelings when they have feelings of sadness or trouble. For this reason, we often refer to greeting cards addressed to mourning families as condolence cards. It can also mean that when people share the same tastes, personalities, or perspectives, there may be harmony between them.

What is empathy?

It also comes from a Greek phrase meaning “passion from feelings or emotions.” Usually, we use this word to express understanding and sharing of another person’s experiences, feelings, and emotions. But it can also mean using imagination to attribute to your feelings or attitudes toward a living or non-living object.

The difference between compassion and empathy

Between these two words, empathy is relatively new, as it later found its way into English. Compassion had been used for <> years before the first written record of empathy around the 300th century.

Although they both deal with emotions, they are still far from synonymous.

Compassion is like sharing

You probably know that compassion can have multiple meanings in dictionaries. But the most popular of these is certainly the ability to enter or share the feelings or benefits of another person in distress. That’s why when we hear compassion, we often associate it with situations that involve suffering. But it’s actually more about sharing that feeling with others.

Empathy is like understanding

Unlike empathy, empathy actually refers to the concept of projection. It comes to you when you have the ability to imagine how a person feels based on what you know about him/her. You will develop these feelings even if they are not clearly communicated to you. This is why empathy is often referred to as understanding.

Some examples of compassion and empathy:

  • He was always very sympathetic to the poor.
  • The teacher was especially sympathetic to his hardships.
  • The current renovation must echo the original structure.
  • I happen to sympathize with Mike because I know what he’s been through.
  • It’s not hard to sympathize with Suzanne because we’ve known her the longest.


So, there you have it. The difference between “compassion” and “empathy”. If you have any other questions, please let us know.

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