"complimentary expression of belief in another's happiness or good fortune," 1709, noun of action from felicitate. Related: Felicitations.
Congratulation, like its verb congratulate, implies an actual feeling of pleasure in another's happiness or good fortune; while felicitation (with felicitate) rather refers to the expression on our part of a belief that the other is fortunate, felicitations being complimentary expressions intended to make the fortunate person well pleased with himself. [Century Dictionary]
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