Printable Version
Pronunciation: kên-do-lins Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. Sympathetic grief. 2. An expression of sympathetic grief.

Notes: This word usually appears in the plural, condolences. Condolences are usually sent to someone who has experienced a death in the family. This noun is based on the adjective condolent "sympathizing, compassionate", which is rarely used. The adjective comes from the verb condole "to sympathize, commiserate with".

In Play: The most frequent use of condolence is in sentences like this: "Old Noah Zarque always sends his condolences to the families of his rapidly disappearing friends and relatives." I particularly like the adjective, though: "Old Noah Zarque always sends a few condolent words to the families of his rapidly disappearing friends and relatives."

Word History: Today's Good Word comes, via French, from Late Latin condolen(t)s "sympathizing", the present participle of condolere "to sympthesize, suffer with", from an assimilated form of com "(together) with" + dolere "to grieve" + -en(t)s, the present participle ending. (The T is omitted in the nominative singular form, but present in most other cases.) The noun that dolere is based on, dolus, was borrowed by Middle English as dole "sorrow, grief" but only made its way to Modern English in the adjective doleful. (Thank you, Jackie Strauss, for recommending today's sad but lovely Good Word. We all hope you had the happiest of birthdays Saturday.)

Dr. Goodword,

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