The term “compassion” comes from the Latin word “compassio,” which means “sympathy” or “pity.” This is derived from the Latin roots “com-” meaning “with” or “together” and “passio,” meaning “suffering.”

1. Proto-Indo-European (PIE)

The PIE root “*kwent(h)-” means “to suffer.”

2. Latin

From the PIE root, the Latin word “passio” developed, meaning “suffering.” The prefix “com-” (with) was combined with “passio” to form “compassio,” meaning “sympathy” or “fellow feeling.”

3. Old French (c. 9th to 14th century CE)

The Latin term “compassio” evolved into Old French “compassion,” meaning “sympathy” or “pity.”

4. Middle English (c. 11th to 15th century CE)

The Old French “compassion” was adopted into Middle English as “compassioun,” retaining the meaning of “sympathy” or “pity.”

5. Modern English (from 15th century CE to present)

The term “compassion” evolved into its current form and pronunciation, retaining the meaning of “a deep awareness of and sympathy for another’s suffering” and “the desire to alleviate that suffering.”

Phonetic Evolution

Over time, the pronunciation of “compassion” has remained relatively stable from Old French to Modern English.

Usage Examples

  • “Compassion is often used to describe a deep awareness of and sympathy for another’s suffering, along with a desire to alleviate it.”
  • “Another example of ‘compassion’ in a sentence is ‘Her compassion for the less fortunate led her to volunteer at the shelter every weekend.'”

Cultural or Historical Notes

The development of the word “compassion” was significantly influenced by religious and philosophical traditions that emphasize empathy, kindness, and the alleviation of suffering. It has been a key concept in discussions of morality, ethics, and social responsibility.

The word “compassion” reflects the concept of empathetic concern and a desire to help those who are suffering, emphasizing the importance of kindness, empathy, and altruism in human interactions and society. It underscores the role of emotional connection and moral responsibility in caring for others and addressing their needs.