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Noun. Middle English.
[Old & modern French from ecclesiastical Latin compassio(n-), from compass- past participial stem of campati suffer with: see PASSION noun.]
1 obsolete. Participation in another's suffering; fellow-feeling, sympathy. ME-E17
2 Pity inclining one to show mercy or give aid. Frequently in have compassion on. ME
3 obsolete. Sorrowful emotion, grief. ME-L16
compassion fatigue indifference to charitable appeals resulting from the frequency of such appeals.
Of the many virtues that humans are capable of displaying, compassion is one of the most precious. It is simply constructed, from the Latin com- meaning 'combined, together', and passion, from its ecclesiastical root of 'suffering'. Therefore, a compassionate person is one that literally shares in the suffering of others.
Semantically, this differs from some of its synonyms, even though etymologically they're very similar. An empathetic person, for example, is one capable of understanding the troubles of others, and a sympathetic person is one that feels pity. A compassionate person, however, is one both emotionally capable and practically willing to share in the grief of his fellows, giving aid, comfort, relief and support.
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