n. pl. pit·ies
1. Sympathy and sorrow aroused by the misfortune or suffering of another.
2. A matter of regret: It's a pity she can't attend the reception.
v. pit·ied, pit·y·ing, pit·ies
To feel pity for or on account of: "No, he could not believe it a bad house; not such a house as a man was to be pitied for having" (Jane Austen). "An office worker pitied his confinement and slipped in to give him a loaf of bread" (Eric Scigliano).
To feel pity.
have/take pity on
To show compassion for.
[Middle English pite, from Old French, from Latin pietās, piety, compassion, from pius, dutiful.]
Synonyms: pity, compassion, sympathy, empathy, commiseration, condolence
These nouns signify kindly concern aroused by the misfortune, affliction, or suffering of another. Pity often implies a feeling of sorrow that inclines one to help or to show mercy. The word usually suggests that the person feeling pity is better off or in a superior position to the person who is the object of pity: "Going with her mother everywhere, she saw what Althea did not: how the other women invited her out of pity" (Kate Wheeler).
Compassion denotes deep awareness of the suffering of another and the wish to relieve it: "Compassion is not weakness, and concern for the unfortunate is not socialism" (Hubert H. Humphrey).
Sympathy denotes the act of or capacity for sharing in the sorrows or troubles of another: "They had little sympathy to spare for their unfortunate enemies" (William Hickling Prescott).
Empathy is an identification with and understanding of another's situation, feelings, and motives: Having changed schools several times as a child, I feel empathy for the transfer students. Commiseration often entails the expression of pity or sorrow: expressed their commiseration over the failure of the experiment. Condolence is formal, conventional sympathy, usually toward a person who has experienced the loss of a loved one: sent a letter of condolence to the bereaved family.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
The American Heritage Dictionary Blog
Check out our blog, updated regularly, for new words and revised definitions, interesting images from the 5th edition, discussions of usage, and more.