I find it strange when someone hears about another's dead lover and he says "I'm sorry for your loss". Why would they apologize when they have nothing to do with his or her death? Is there a better expression, something like "Don't feel sad" or "It's something natural"?

  • 10
    Loss, not lost. ‘Sorry’ here is not an apology, but a sense more closely showing the word’s history and relation to ‘sorrow’: you are saying, “It causes me sorrow to have heard of/to know of your loss”. “Don't feel sad” and “It's natural” could both be taken to be quite offensive. One is telling the bereaved how to deal with their grief (“My dad just died, I'll bloody well feel sad if I want to!), the other is saying that death is a natural part of life—true, but not a very nice or appropriate thing to say to someone in their time of mourning. Oct 13, 2013 at 23:12
  • 4
    "I'm sorry" is often not an apology at all in English. It is in some cases an expression of sympathy ("I feel sorry for your loss") and in other cases it may imply the recognition of a less than optimal situation, and in still others it may preface a confrontational rejoinder: "I'm sorry, maybe you didn't hear me clearly. I told you to piss off."
    – Robusto
    Oct 13, 2013 at 23:35
  • This expression is a fairly recent American import.Before then "Deepest sympathy " Or condolences were offered.Modern script writers often forget this and even use it in 19th century dramas on telly.
    – user54333
    Oct 17, 2013 at 11:47
  • 2
    @JanusBahsJacquet, I think you should promote that comment to an answer.
    – TRiG
    Nov 19, 2013 at 11:35
  • @JanusBahsJacquet: TRiG is right, your comment is more informative than expected for a comment. It'd be better to make it an answer since it should be very helpful to many passers-by.
    – Gigili
    Dec 3, 2013 at 9:20

2 Answers 2


The word sorry doesn't always mean "apologize."

Dictionary.com gives one definition as:

feeling regret, compunction, sympathy, pity,

"Sorry for your loss" means "I feel sympathy for your loss."


My heart feels sore for you. My heart is sore-ry. I am sorry.

sor·ry (sr, sôr)
adj. sor·ri·er, sor·ri·est
1. Feeling or expressing sympathy, pity, or regret: I'm sorry I'm late.
2. Worthless or inferior; paltry: a sorry excuse.
3. Causing sorrow, grief, or misfortune; grievous: a sorry development.
[Middle English sori, from Old English srig, sad, from sr, sore.]

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.