I've heard the expression "I'm grievously sorry" in the "Game Of Thrones"

These are two definitions from American Heritage® Dictionary I found:

1. Causing grief, pain, or anguish: a grievous loss.

2. Serious or dire; grave: a grievous crime.

Does this expression mean that "someone is so sorry as to cause them pain" or that "someone is seriously sorry"? I know that both versions actually entail one another, so both of these might actually be true, but I can't find anything about it on the web so I decided to ask.

  • The 'pain' that sorrow or shame can cause is not necessarily physical. Commented Jan 7, 2023 at 21:47

1 Answer 1


It is not a particular idiom or fixed phrase.

Of the two meanings, only the second would seem to apply. Saying "I'm painfully sorry" is hyperbole, (no actual pain). So, removing they hyperbole you get "grievously" just meaning "very", or "seriously".

So you can take it either way, as a hyperbolic expression (my sorrow causes grief, pain and anguish (but not really!)) or literally "my sorrow is serious".

  • I always wondered about a comparable phrase in French "Je suis desolé", which rarely truly means 'desolated', just 'sorry'. Even 'sorry' doesn't really mean 'sorrowful'. It seems over time we've taken serious phrases & softened their perceived meanings. Commented Jan 8, 2023 at 13:06
  • There tends to be a cycle of "There is a word we use for apologies. But the word we use for 'sorry' is not enough for serious apologies, so we invent a new word, but then if you use the original word it suggests your apology isn't serious, so the old word is replaced and now there is a word we use for apologies. But...." Compare "sumimasen" and "gomen nasai" in Japanese.
    – James K
    Commented Jan 8, 2023 at 13:26
  • ah, indeed, though my Japanese isn't good enough to know the literal translations for those. I only speak a little & that is purely parrot-fashion. I've heard sumimasen shortened still further, though, to something like seemasen [sp?] when all you need is the waitress to bring more biru, 'moipai, onegai shimasu' ;)) Commented Jan 8, 2023 at 13:41
  • @James K : Does it really have to be hyperbole? If someone lost their son for example, and I'm very close with that person, I could see their suffering and feel sorry for them to the point of feeling anguish, which is a form of mental pain. Commented Jan 8, 2023 at 14:35
  • 1
    I'd say it is still hyperbole. But there is nothing wrong with that. Hyberbole is a useful figure of speech to express more intense emotional states.
    – James K
    Commented Jan 8, 2023 at 14:47

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