Etymology
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compassion (n.)
Origin and meaning of compassion

"feeling of sorrow or deep tenderness for one who is suffering or experiencing misfortune," mid-14c., compassioun, literally "a suffering with another," from Old French compassion "sympathy, pity" (12c.), from Late Latin compassionem (nominative compassio) "sympathy," noun of state from past participle stem of compati "to feel pity," from com "with, together" (see com-) + pati "to suffer" (see passion).

Latin compassio is an ecclesiastical loan-translation of Greek sympatheia (see sympathy). Sometimes in Middle English it meant a literal sharing of affliction or suffering with another. An Old English loan-translation of compassion was efenðrowung.

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compatible (adj.)

"capable of coexisting in harmony, reconcilable," mid-15c., from Medieval Latin compatibilis, from Late Latin compati (see compassion). Related: Compatibly; compatibility.

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compassionate (adj.)

"characterized by compassion," 1580s, from compassion + -ate (1). Related: Compassionately. Phrase compassionate conservatism in American political language recorded by 1992, popularized, if not coined, by Marvin Olasky, instructor at University of Texas at Austin.

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ruthless (adj.)

early 14c., reutheles, "pitiless, merciless, devoid of compassion," from reuthe "pity, compassion" (see ruth) + -less.

Ruthful "pitiable, lamentable, causing ruth" (c. 1200) has fallen from use since late 17c. except as a deliberate archaism, perhaps in part because it had a conflicting sense of "compassionate, tender-hearted, full of ruth." Ruthness "compassion, pity" (early 14c.) died even younger. Related: Ruthlessly; ruthlessness.

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pity (n.)

mid-13c., pite, "compassion, kindness, generosity of spirit;" c. 1300 "disposition to mercy, quality of being merciful," also "a feeling of sympathy and compassion aroused by the sorrow or suffering of another," from Old French pite, pitet "pity, mercy, compassion, care, tenderness; pitiful state, wretched condition" (11c., Modern French pitié), from Latin pietatem (nominative pietas) "piety, loyalty, duty" (see piety). Replaced Old English mildheortness, literally "mild-heartness," itself a loan-translation of Latin misericordia.

It is some comfort to receive commiseration or condolence ; it gives one strength to receive sympathy from a loving heart ; it is irksome to need compassion ; it galls us to be pitied. [Century Dictionary, 1895]

Middle English pity also could mean "devout obedience to God" (mid-14c.), and pity and piety were not fully distinguished until 17c. Transferred sense of "grounds or cause for pity, matter or source of grief or regret" is from late 14c.

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piteous (adj.)

c. 1300, pitous, "merciful, full of pity" (a sense now archaic; OED's last citation for it is in 1855); also "arousing or deserving pity, such as to excite compassion, lamentable, sorrowful," from Anglo-French pitous, Old French pitos, piteus "pious; merciful, compassionate, moved to pity; pitiful" (12c., Modern French piteux), from Medieval Latin pietosus "merciful, pitiful" (source also of Spanish piadoso), in Vulgar Latin "dutiful," from Latin pietas "dutiful conduct, compassion" (see piety). Also in Middle English "godly, righteous, devout, pious." With irregular development of form (according to OED the regular phonetic development from the French word would be *pitous). Related: Piteously; piteousness.

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rueful (adj.)

c. 1200, reuful, rewfulle, reowfule, "expressing suffering or sorrow; sad, dreadful" (of news, etc.), also in a now obsolete sense of "merciful, compassionate," from rue (n.2) + -ful. Related: Ruefulness (c. 1200 as "compassion, mercy;" 1580s as "dejection").

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commiseration (n.)

"sympathetic suffering of grief or sorrow for the afflictions or distress of another," 1580s, from French commisération, from Latin commiserationem (nominative commiseratio) "part of an oration intended to excite compassion," noun of action from past-participle stem of commiserari "to pity," from com-, here perhaps an intensive prefix (see com-) + miserari "bewail, lament," from miser "wretched" (see miser).

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bowel (n.)

c. 1300, usually plural, bowels, "human organs of the abdominal cavity," from late 14c. specifically as "human intestines," from Old French boele "intestines, bowels, innards" (12c., Modern French boyau), from Medieval Latin botellus "small intestine," originally "sausage," diminutive of botulus "sausage," a word borrowed from Oscan-Umbrian.

The transferred sense of "the viscera as the seat of emotions" is from late 14c.; especially "inner parts as the seat of pity or kindness," hence "tenderness, compassion." Greek splankhnon (from the same PIE root as spleen) was a word for the principal internal organs, which also were felt in ancient times to be the seat of various emotions. Greek poets, from Aeschylus down, regarded the bowels as the seat of the more violent passions such as anger and love, but by the Hebrews they were seen as the seat of tender affections, especially kindness, benevolence, and compassion. Splankhnon was used in Septuagint to translate a Hebrew word, and from thence early Bibles in English rendered it in its literal sense as bowels, which thus acquired in English a secondary meaning of "pity, compassion" (late 14c.). But in later editions the word often was translated as heart. Bowel movement is attested by 1874.

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commiserate (v.)
Origin and meaning of commiserate

"feel sorrow, regret, or compassion for through sympathy," c. 1600, from Latin commiseratus, past participle of commiserari "to pity, bewail," from com-, here perhaps an intensive prefix (see com-) + miserari "bewail, lament," from miser "wretched" (see miser). Related: Commiserated; commiserating; commiserable. An Old English loan-translation of commiserari was efensargian.

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