There are many times when at the time of giving condolence or showing sympathy to someone, we say "Sorry for your loss". What does the word "Sorry" signify here? Why it is "Sorry for your loss" and not," Sad to know about your loss"? The word sorry is used basically for apologizing then why not in this phrase?

  • 1
    I think the point of the answers below is to notice the common root in the words sorry and sorrow.
    – shawnt00
    Jan 20, 2016 at 16:17
  • It's worth noting that other languages (Korean comes to mind) actually separate this concept into two words. You use one to express sympathy and the other to apologize for your own mistake. In English, lots of concepts share words.
    – TheBuzzSaw
    Jan 20, 2016 at 17:18
  • 3
    Frustratingly, even native English speakers sometimes respond to "sorry" with "it's not your fault", even when it should be clear from the context that "sorry" is meant to express empathy or sympathy rather than an apology. Jan 20, 2016 at 17:39
  • 1
    Relevant: xkcd.com/945
    – wchargin
    Jan 20, 2016 at 20:32
  • Did you check the dictionary? It is possible to use 'sorry' in many ways! OALD's this entry talking about sorry (for something/doing something) is the answer to this question! It means 'feeling sad' as mentioned in the dictionary
    – Maulik V
    Jan 21, 2016 at 7:27

3 Answers 3


'Sorry' is most often used to apologise, but it's not the only meaning of the word.

Google's dictionary has a pretty good definition:


  1. feeling sad or distressed through sympathy with someone else's misfortune.

"I was sorry to hear about what happened to your family"

  1. feeling regret or penitence.

"he said he was sorry he had upset me"

  1. in a poor or pitiful state.

"he looks a sorry sight with his broken jaw"

In this case, it's the first meaning. You're expressing your sorrow for their loss.


"Sorry" (as used in this context) doesn't automatically imply regret for something you have done wrong.


Sorry (MW Online)

  1. feeling sorrow, regret, or penitence

  2. mournful, sad

and subsequently

Sorrow (MW Online)

  1. a feeling of sadness or grief caused especially by the loss of someone or something
  2. a cause of grief or sadness

By saying "Sorry for your loss" you are saying "Sad to know", by expressing sorrow.


'Sorry' can mean any of the following :

  • Feeling or expressing sorrow.
  • Feeling or expressing sympathy or pity.
  • Feeling or expressing regret.

In this context, the second meaning of 'sorry' is used. When we go somewhere to offer our condolences to a person who has lost somebody, we express a deep feeling of sympathy. That's why we use "I'm sorry for your loss". It doesn't mean that we are apologizing for that person's loss, ie, the loss of a very dear person. Although it means "I am deeply saddened about your loss", the sentence, as such, isn't used that commonly.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .