‘Deepest Sympathy’: Definition, Meaning, and Examples

By Sophia Merton, updated on February 10, 2023

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.

What Does ‘Deepest Sympathy’ Mean?

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.”

Where Does ‘Deepest Sympathy’ Come From?

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.

Examples of ‘Deepest Sympathy’ In Sentences

How would you use ‘deepest sympathy’ in a sentence? Let’s take a look at some examples.

  • “I want to offer my deepest sympathy. I know you are going through a terribly tough time right now, but I hope you can remember that this too shall pass.”
  • “He has my deepest sympathies, but I’m starting to get a bit frustrated with him. I’ve done everything I can to help him get out of this rut, but it’s all to no avail.”
  • There’s a thin line between sharing your deepest sympathy and practically harassing someone who is grieving. I’m sure they appreciate your concern, but you might want to give them a little space for a while.”
  • “She wondered if he understood that she was sincere when she offered her deepest sympathies– she thought he might not believe she was being genuine because of their recent argument.”
  • “His behavior has been completely erratic recently. He has my deepest sympathies for his loss, but the way he’s been acting is starting to have a negative impact on our business.”
  • “Please accept my deepest sympathy, and I can only imagine how difficult things are for your right now. If you ever find that you are feeling lonely, please don’t hesitate to call me.”
  • “It was honestly an honor when he reached out and shared his deepest sympathy. He is a very busy man, and I was surprised to hear from him after the accident.”

Other Ways to Say ‘Deepest Sympathy’

What are some other words and phrases that have a similar meaning to ‘deepest sympathy’? Here are some options:

  • My sincere condolences
  • I’m sorry for your loss
  • I’m thinking of you
  • I’m sending you my condolences
  • My thoughts are with you in your time of grief
  • I wish you peace and comfort as you grieve
  • My deepest condolences

Ready to learn more English phrases? Make sure you check out our idioms blog!

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Written By:
Sophia Merton
Sophia Merton is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. Sophia received her BA from Vassar College. She is passionate about reading, writing, and the written word. Her goal is to help everyone, whether native English speaker or not, learn how to write and speak with perfect English.

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