Definition of sympathetic in English:



  • 1Feeling, showing, or expressing sympathy.

    ‘she was sympathetic towards staff with family problems’
    ‘he spoke in a sympathetic tone’
    • ‘Mikey gave her the most sympathetic look he could muster then pushed her hair back.’
    • ‘Perhaps he should have been more sympathetic toward them.’
    • ‘‘Don't worry dear ’, she told me in sympathetic tones, ‘Everything will be fine’.’
    • ‘She is as famous and prestigious as her father, and very esteemed with her warm and sympathetic personality.’
    • ‘Rine decided these were not the friendly, sympathetic guards she and the duke had encountered earlier.’
    • ‘He gave me a sympathetic smile and wiped away the tears from my face.’
    • ‘The St. Judith girl's eyes widened and she gave him a sympathetic look.’
    • ‘The Minister also appeared to have taken a sympathetic approach towards the problems faced by medical college doctors.’
    • ‘I felt very sympathetic toward Jack but even worse that he had to go.’
    • ‘The comrades were too sympathetic or polite to express alarm that he's only just realised.’
    • ‘Madison gave a frustrated sigh and with one last sympathetic smile exited my bedroom.’
    • ‘This has happened at other stores and usually the most sympathetic person is the sales clerk, who feels guilty that I can't try on the clothes.’
    • ‘Both of the controllers were understanding and sympathetic toward me, perhaps more than I deserved.’
    • ‘"Oh, no, " he said, sounding sympathetic.’
    • ‘I ended up telling him everything about my life, and he actually seemed sympathetic.’
    • ‘Dave offered a hug along with his sympathetic tone, but Lori didn't feel the comfort in the embrace.’
    • ‘She is advised by a friend to visit a sympathetic doctor and make up ‘a fearful fib about a potty aunt’ in order to convince the psychiatrist that she is mentally unstable.’
    • ‘I knew Anikei was more sympathetic toward Pavel than anybody else was.’
    • ‘The gruffness took on a softer tone, sounding almost sympathetic.’
    • ‘It would also release more time for doctors, who would no longer need to cope with people presenting illness as a cover for their real aim - the chance to talk to a sympathetic person about their personal problems.’
    commiserating, commiserative, pitying, condoling, consoling, comforting, supportive, encouraging
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  • 2Showing approval of or favour towards an idea or action.

    ‘he was sympathetic to evolutionary ideas’
    • ‘And among those there are a lot of people sympathetic to the far right.’
    • ‘Before you started your research, had you been sympathetic toward the idea of antidepressants?’
    • ‘My parents were very sympathetic to my need to pay attention to detail.’
    • ‘He remains sympathetic to their aims whilst showing up their limitations.’
    • ‘But some people sympathetic to the aims of the protests question whether or not mass demonstrations are worthwhile.’
    • ‘This was to have an impact on his political strategy: though sympathetic to some of the aims of both the French Revolution and the United Irishmen, he retained a strong aversion to political violence.’
    • ‘Fortunately, European public opinion was much more sympathetic to the cause of freedom.’
    • ‘At least one newspaper has editorialised in favour of political union and others are sympathetic to the proposal.’
    • ‘Perhaps I give the impression of being more sympathetic to the conservative cause.’
    • ‘By now, Begin was somewhat sympathetic to a diplomatic solution but he also believed in the use of force to protect Israel.’
    • ‘There may be a few on the bar ethics committee, at least, who are sympathetic to the ‘civil disobedience’ argument.’
    • ‘They sought to weed out those who opposed capital punishment or were apparently too sympathetic toward an insanity defense.’
    • ‘Some commentators, particularly those sympathetic to postmodernist thought, have argued against a notion of difference based on experiential diversity.’
    • ‘Let's hope that Bradford MP Gerry Sutcliffe, whose ministerial responsibilities now include fireworks, is sympathetic to that view.’
    • ‘I'm sympathetic to the argument that control over access to the Internet might be abused.’
    • ‘Though Stark is sympathetic to these voices, her ire is raised by the question of private practice.’
    • ‘Of course, over time ministers sometimes promoted officers whom they found sympathetic to the cause, but in general the service was respected as the giver of fearless and impartial advice.’
    • ‘I'm sympathetic with the president's desire to let people have ownership.’
    • ‘This patronising attitude only serves to alienate potential members who might otherwise be sympathetic to socialist ideas.’
    • ‘Though sympathetic to the aims of antiwar activists who emerged from each of these groups, his assessment is equivocal and, in some places, muddled.’
    in favour of, in sympathy with, approving of, pro, on the side of, supportive of, supporting of, favourable, encouraging of
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  • 3(of a person) attracting the liking of others.

    ‘Hubbell is a more sympathetic character’
    • ‘All are portrayed as sympathetic characters - indeed Trollope researched her subject with several people of the same age and was struck by how nice everyone was.’
    • ‘None of the characters are very sympathetic or warm, with the only real charm being shown by the film's villain, Kay Walsh.’
    • ‘Without glossing over the more reprehensible elements in Sade's temperament, Rush succeeds in making him into a sympathetic character.’
    • ‘In Cath, Jennings succeeds in quickly establishing an extremely likeable, sympathetic character.’
    • ‘As our viewpoint character she is the most stable and sympathetic person in the film, and yet she is almost completely mercenary, serving no code but her own desires and whims.’
    • ‘Readers looking for sweet, sympathetic heroines would be best advised to look elsewhere.’
    • ‘She doesn't come across as a very sympathetic character.’
    • ‘I'm sure the writers will protest that discussing issues like this, using sympathetic characters, helps educate others in similar situations.’
    • ‘Top that off, most of the sympathetic characters are hippies and you have a movie with pretty progressive values.’
    • ‘Played to perfection by Rebecca Northan, who delivers an expertly layered performance, Kelly becomes the most captivating and sympathetic character in the play.’
    • ‘The protagonist and I share a lot of personality traits too, although I'm possibly less of a sympathetic character.’
    • ‘Like Tony Maudsley's character, Martin, Christine is very sympathetic, and her sweet nature sets her apart from Ray Temple's bullying and caustic ways.’
    • ‘Rhodes constructs a sympathetic portrait of Audubon and places him in his historical and cultural context.’
    • ‘Most importantly, Shuuya is far from the only sympathetic character, with at least two other people seemingly having no intention of playing the game by the close of this first volume.’
    • ‘Because they have cultivated, or had cultivated for them, this image of a sympathetic people, they are terrified of appearing to offend anybody, even if this means losing some of their sovereignty.’
    • ‘Despite a predictable script, Jugnot is still able to play an immensely sympathetic character without being cloying.’
    • ‘Giving Foyle an array of personal problems makes him a much more sympathetic character, too.’
    • ‘Rather, he portrays unrepentant communists as sympathetic characters in the novel.’
    • ‘His lifestyle was too threatening, his irresponsibility too damning to make him sympathetic.’
    • ‘Harvey kept Hilarion as a sympathetic character, ruggedly attractive and devoted.’
    likeable, pleasant, agreeable, congenial, friendly, genial, companionable, easy to get along with
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    1. 3.1(of a structure) designed in a sensitive or appropriate way.
      ‘buildings that were sympathetic to their surroundings’
      • ‘The fragment in the museum is smaller than the repeat, so the designers at Brunschwig et Fils were called upon to finish the original design in a sympathetic way.’
      • ‘The new floor is made up of a lime-based material sympathetic to the original structure and creates a level floor allowing better access to visitors.’
      • ‘So the goal was to design a roof structure sympathetic to these life-forming principles.’
      • ‘You could design something that's sympathetic to its surroundings.’
      • ‘Sevenoaks Council said its planners feel the design takes into account the town plan and is sympathetic to the surroundings.’
      • ‘The planning officer's report to the district council says the development is considered to be sympathetic to the surroundings and would be allowed under the Draft District Plan.’
      • ‘The proposed new development is sympathetic to the existing church structure, but recognises the need to differentiate this new building from the old one.’
      • ‘It adds: ‘The proposals have been well designed and are considered to be sympathetic to the Grade II almshouse on the site.’’
      • ‘The plans, likely to cost around £1m, would be sympathetic to existing features of the park, retaining football playing fields and working around recently planted trees.’
      • ‘A fantastic range of modern and traditional architecture, with the modern architecture being sympathetic to the traditional, while not slavishly emulating it.’
      • ‘But architect Malcolm Payne said the design was very sympathetic and would open up new views of York Minster.’
      • ‘The home had been plagued by numerous remodels, ‘none of which were sympathetic to the original design,’ he explains.’
      • ‘The homes will also be sympathetic to existing designs in Broome Manor Lane in that they will be two storey.’
      • ‘Those changes include a new door to the wine bar and roof lights sympathetic to the building's design.’
      • ‘As for the proposal, the stark image of the piazza is hardly sympathetic to the trees already on the bank of the Foss.’
  • 4Relating to or denoting the part of the autonomic nervous system consisting of nerves arising from ganglia near the middle part of the spinal cord, supplying the internal organs, blood vessels, and glands, and balancing the action of the parasympathetic nerves.

    • ‘The two main ganglionic trunks of the sympathetic nervous system are the cervical and lumbar trunks.’
    • ‘Cocaine, ecstasy, and amphetamine share similar adverse effects on the cardiovascular system, related predominantly to activation of the sympathetic nervous system.’
    • ‘The stimulators work either by blocking sympathetic nerve fiber transmission or by releasing endogenous opioids with stimulation.’
    • ‘Leptin increases activity in sympathetic nerves in the kidney, brown adipose tissue, hind limbs, and adrenal medulla.’
    • ‘Three main types of lumbar sympathetic nerve blockades for pain include the paravertebral approach and spinal and epidural injections of local anesthetics.’
    • ‘The autonomic nervous system consists of two opposing systems, the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous systems.’
    • ‘They also subdue signals from the sympathetic nervous system and inhibit deleterious overgrowth of damaged heart muscle.’
    • ‘Ganglioneuroma is a benign tumor of the sympathetic nervous system that rarely produces symptoms of endocrine dysfunction.’
    • ‘Such a practice helps harmonize two hemispheres of the brain and the two aspects of autonomous nervous system viz. sympathetic and parasympathetic.’
    • ‘In autonomic disease, the sympathetic, parasympathetic, and enteric nerves are affected.’
    • ‘Nicotinic receptors are located on sympathetic ganglia and voluntary muscles.’
    • ‘This 10-second delay is more in keeping with the behavior of the sympathetic than the parasympathetic nervous system.’
    • ‘The constrictor muscle is supplied by the parasympathetic nervous system, and the dilator by the sympathetic nervous system.’
    • ‘General anesthesia causes peripheral vessels to dilate by depressing the sympathetic nervous system.’
    • ‘All that beta-blockers do is prevent those fright/flight hormones of the sympathetic nervous system from working their mischief.’
    • ‘If the sympathetic nervous system is damaged, however, the blood vessels do not constrict and blood pressure progressively decreases.’
    • ‘The sympathetic nerve supply to the lung arises in the upper six thoracic segments of the spinal cord.’
    • ‘The changes finally become so extensive that almost every tissue, except the skin, the central nervous system and the sympathetic ganglions, is affected.’
    • ‘The plaintiff in this case had reflex sympathetic dystrophy in his left arm caused by a work-related accident.’
    • ‘The outer layer of blood vessels contains nerves of the sympathetic component of the autonomic nervous system, the activity of which is controlled by the brain.’
  • 5Relating to, producing, or denoting an effect which arises in response to a similar action elsewhere.

    • ‘The converse of a sympathetic reaction is a para-sympathetic reaction, which triggers counter-reactions.’


Mid 17th century (in the sense ‘relating to an affinity or paranormal influence’, as in sympathetic magic): from sympathy, on the pattern of pathetic.