Originally, pathos (πάθος) meant "suffering" and "pain". Today, there are (at least) three main branches of meaning:

I wonder when (how, why) these branchings of meaning did occur.

Besides this coarse-grained question I wonder what exactly is the difference between empathy and sympathy. At the surface it seems clear: I can be empathic with people I don't like (don't have sympathy with), but not the other way around, or do I? Why and how did these two words (and their referents) evolve?

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    I write under correction from Real Scholars of Greek, but I believe that the verb from which path- derives wasn't about 'suffering' only in the sense of experiencing pain but more largely in the sense of undergoing or experiencing anything, good or bad, including 'emotions' and 'passions'--whose Latin roots similarly express being the object of an action. Commented Sep 1, 2017 at 16:46
  • totally irrelevant, but is the cedilla derived from the Greek 's'? Commented Sep 1, 2017 at 19:24
  • No, the cedilla, originally used in Spanish, derives from the letter 'z'.
    – rjpond
    Commented Sep 1, 2017 at 19:31

1 Answer 1


These are obviously scholarly derivations introduced in Early Modern English (pathology is attested in the 17th century). It was a time of advances in knowledge and there was a need for new technical words; Greek and Latin roots were used for that purpose.

There is an earlier analogue that made it into Middle English, which comes from Latin: passion (in its original meaning of "suffering" as in the Passion of Christ), which is connected to the Latin verb pati (to suffer) perhaps akin to the Greek word. You may find a study of the word here, in connection with the Bible.

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