"feeling of sorrow or pity excited by the sufferings or misfortunes of another," 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.