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[sim-puh-thet-ik] /ˌsɪm pəˈθɛt ɪk/
characterized by, proceeding from, exhibiting, or feeling sympathy; sympathizing; compassionate:
a sympathetic listener.
acting or affected by, of the nature of, or pertaining to a special affinity or mutual relationship; congenial:
With their many similar tastes, he found her a most sympathetic companion.
looking upon with favor (often followed by to or toward):
She is sympathetic to the project.
Anatomy, Physiology.
  1. pertaining to that part of the autonomic nervous system consisting of nerves that arise from the thoracic and lumbar regions of the spinal cord, and functioning in opposition to the parasympathetic system, as in stimulating heartbeat, dilating the pupil of the eye, etc.
  2. Obsolete. pertaining to the autonomic nervous system in its entirety.
Physics. noting or pertaining to vibrations, sounds, etc., produced by a body as the direct result of similar vibrations in a different body.
Origin of sympathetic
1635-45; < New Latin sympathēticus < Greek sympathētikós. See sym-, pathetic
Related forms
sympathetically, adverb
nonsympathetic, adjective
nonsympathetically, adverb
quasi-sympathetic, adjective
quasi-sympathetically, adverb
supersympathetic, adjective
unsympathetic, adjective
unsympathetically, adverb
Can be confused
empathetic, sympathetic, simpatico.
1. commiserating, kind, tender, affectionate. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for unsympathetic
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Joffre was unsympathetic, though he held out hopes of co-operating in such an advance with the French army at a later date.

  • It was awkward that his own people were all of them so unsympathetic about the children.

    Jan and Her Job L. Allen Harker
  • What did it matter to him though its master was there, looking on with folded arms and unsympathetic face?

    Salem Chapel, v.1/2 Mrs. Oliphant
  • And this unsympathetic Sir Terence did not explain them to you?

    The Snare Rafael Sabatini
  • Emily was not unsympathetic, but she had had a rather wearing life.

    The Tin Soldier Temple Bailey
British Dictionary definitions for unsympathetic


not characterized by, feeling, or showing sympathy
when postpositive, often foll by to or towards. not showing agreement (with) or favour (towards)


characterized by, feeling, or showing sympathy; understanding
in accord with the subject's personality or mood; congenial: a sympathetic atmosphere
when postpositive, often foll by to or towards. showing agreement (with) or favour (towards): sympathetic to the proposals
(anatomy, physiol) of or relating to the division of the autonomic nervous system that acts in opposition to the parasympathetic system accelerating the heartbeat, dilating the bronchi, inhibiting the smooth muscles of the digestive tract, etc Compare parasympathetic
relating to vibrations occurring as a result of similar vibrations in a neighbouring body: sympathetic strings on a sitar
Derived Forms
sympathetically, adverb
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for unsympathetic

1823, from un- (1) "not" + sympathetic.



1640s, "pertaining to sympathy," from Modern Latin sympatheticus, from Greek sympathetikos, from sympathein, from sympathes "having a fellow feeling, affected by like feelings" (see sympathy). Meaning "having fellow feeling" is recorded from 1718. In anatomical sense, the word is attested from 1769, from Modern Latin (nervus) sympathicus, coined by Jacques-Benigne Winslow (1669-1760), Danish anatomist living in Paris. Related: Sympathetically.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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unsympathetic in Medicine

sympathetic sym·pa·thet·ic (sĭm'pə-thět'ĭk)
Of, relating to, or acting on the sympathetic nervous system.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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