When someone’s child in the neighborhood falls ill you feel sympathy. But if your own child falls ill you feel empathy.

The words sympathy and empathy are both nouns and are related with feelings and emotions. Using them is quite tricky if you don’t have a deep understanding of their meanings. A common misconception is that they are synonyms, but they are not. As you may have observed, both of these words contain the term ‘pathy’ which originates from the Greek word pathos, which means feelings associated with sorrow. Moreover, both of these words are used when you’re trying to console someone. So which one to use when?

Empathy means feeling someone else’s feelings as if they’re your own or in other words, putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. So when you’re empathizing with someone you’re forging a deep emotional connection with that person. Sympathy means that you are only feeling bad for someone because of their loss. You are basically saying that you feel sorry and would like to comfort them distantly. The best way to distinguish them is to determine the level of connection the subject has with the object in the sentence. Discover details about these words below.

Empathy vs sympathy – definitions and meanings

Definition of empathy

Empathy is a noun which means feeling someone else’s emotions as if they are your own. This means you’re basically projecting yourself onto that person and experiencing the same circumstances that person is facing. You can empathize with anything, a person, animal, thing or entity. People who showcase empathy include medical practitioners, caretakers and parents etc.

Example sentences of empathy

  • Ever since my sudden abortion, I have been feeling a lot of empathy for all mothers facing a similar situation.

This sentence shows that a woman is feeling a lot of emotion for all the woman who faced accidental abortions since she recently went through the same sorrowful experience.

  • Next Generation Commander Deanna Troi – the main character, showcased a lot of empathy in the science-fiction TV series Star Trek.

This sentence tells us about the characteristics of Deanna Troi, who was the main character in the famous TV series Star Trek: The Next Generation. She could sense the emotions of everybody else around her so basically she felt a lot of empathy towards everyone.

  • Narcissists are incapable of showing empathy towards others.

This sentence tells us about the traits of people suffering from narcissistic personality disorder. They are unable to understand other people’s feelings and appear to be highly selfish, rude and greedy.

Definition of sympathy

The word sympathy is a noun which means to feel bad for someone’s sorrow or loss. It can also be used in place of care and concern.

Example sentences of sympathy

  • It’s been five years since my friend’s father died but I’ve been sending her sympathy cards every year so that she doesn’t feel lonely.

This sentence talks about a friend who kept sending sympathy and comforting cards to her friend after her dad passed away.

  • Sympathy poured in from all over the world for the victims of corona virus in Wuhan.

This sentence tells us that everyone from around the globe felt sorry and sympathized with the victims of Corona Virus in the city of Wuhan in China.

  • The woman felt sympathy for the gentleman who had recently lost his dog.

This sentence highlights a woman feeling sympathy or concern for someone who had lost their dog recently.

Since both of the words involve feelings along with some sort of loss, it is common to confuse their meanings. As a top selling tip, remember that empathy is associated with a deep connection of the heart whereas sympathy is like understanding someone’s loss and showing concern from a distance. It is more cognitive in nature. When you want to show your comfort for someone close to you and when you’ve had a similar experience and can relate to the pain then empathy is the best choice.