The terms empathy and sympathy are often confused. This may be attributed to the fact that both terms focuses on a person’s relationship with the feelings and experiences of another person.
Both empathy and sympathy are rooted from the Greek word pathos which means “suffering” or “a quality that evokes pity or sadness.” The prefix em- means “in” or “within” while the prefix sym- means “with.”
The word empathy is a noun that refers to “understanding or experiencing someone else’s emotions or experiences as if they were your own, or as a shared experience”. It is often used to denote the ability of a person to imagine himself in the situation of another person, including his emotions, ideas, or opinions.
I have empathy for those families who lost their house in the storm. A tornado once destroyed my house.
Having just lost her mother to cancer, Janice felt great empathy for Joe during his chemotherapy.
The word sympathy is a noun that means “to have compassion for, or feel sorry about, someone else’s sorrow or misfortunes”. It does not require you to have the same feelings with the person you symphatize with but it enables you to have compassion for that person and understand his suffering.
Jackie had sympathy for John, who lost his house in a fire.
Their sympathy for the victims led them to donate.