Did you hear someone offer their ‘deepest sympathy’ to someone? What does this mean, and how would you use it in a sentence?
‘Deepest sympathy’ is a phrase that communicates one's “sincere, heartfelt condolences.” It is commonly used after a person has experienced the death of a loved one or a loss of some kind.
The phrase ‘deepest sympathy’ means “sincere, heartfelt condolences.” You will also sometimes see or hear people express their ‘deepest sympathies,’ with ‘sympathy’ appearing in its plural form.
‘Deepest sympathy’ is one of the common phrases used to express one’s condolences, specifically when someone has died. Though this is a fairly formal way of telling someone that you are sorry for their loss, it is widely used and not in any way out of place as a way to share that your thoughts are with a person that has experienced a loss of some kind.
For example, if your friend tells you that someone close to them has passed away, you might say, “my ‘deepest sympathies’– I’m so sorry for your loss.”
The word ‘sympathy’ dates back to the 1570s with the meaning of “affinity between certain things. It comes from the 16th-century French word sympathie and the Late Latin word sympathia, which means “community of feeling, sympathy.”
This Latin word comes from the Greek word sympatheia, which means “community of feeling, fellow-feeling.” The root of this word comes from syn-, meaning “together,” and pathos, meaning “feeling.”
The history of the word ‘sympathy’ in English is actually quite fascinating. In the past, there was almost a magical notion associated with the word. It was used in relation to medicines that would be applied to a blood-stained cloth (from the wound itself) in order to heal wounds.
Around the 1590s, the phrase started being used with the meaning of “conformity of feelings.” The implication of “compassion, fellow feeling” is first found around the year 1600.
The word ‘deep’ comes from the Old English word deop, meaning “having considerable extension downward.” The figurative meaning of the word, as in “mysterious, awful, profound; solemn, serious,” is also quite old.
Using the Google Book Ngram Viewer, we find examples of the phrase ‘deepest sympathy’ from as early as 1833. In a publication entitled A Tribute of Filial Sympathy to the Memory of a Beloved Father, we find the sentence:
"In all the vicissitudes of his public life, my father felt the deepest sympathy.”
We find the plural form of the phrase– ‘deepest sympathies’– in an 1825 publication named The Monthly Review.
“There is more vigor in the construction of the lines, a bolder class of imagery, and, in the delineation of the intense sufferings of the narrator, a nearer approach to tragedy, than we have seen in any of her former productions. Our deepest sympathies are awakened for the wanderer while he tells of the extraordinary impulse that led him to kindle the funeral fire for the wife of his bosom, in order to save her inanimate remains from the touch of corruption; as if he were jealous even of the power which the common destiny of nature claimed over her form.”
The phrase appears to be regularly used in 19th-century texts, and we will leave only one more example here from an 1833 publication called Two Years and a Half in the American Navy:
“In viewing the Hercules, we are amazed at the strength of body it expresses, but in beholding Niobe and her children, it is their mental agony that penetrates our soul, and awakens its deepest sympathies.”
The Google Books Ngram Viewer graph shows us that ‘deepest sympathy’ has long been the more popular version of the phrase than ‘deepest sympathies,’ at least in formal publications. While already in use by the beginning of Google’s analysis– 1800– the usage steadily climbs until it reaches its peak around the time of the Second World War. Since then, its usage in texts has been less common.
How would you use ‘deepest sympathy’ in a sentence? Let’s take a look at some examples.
What are some other words and phrases that have a similar meaning to ‘deepest sympathy’? Here are some options:
Ready to learn more English phrases? Make sure you check out our idioms blog!
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