Difference Between Passion and Compassion

Difference Between Passion and Compassion

The words “passion” and “compassion” might sound similar, but they actually have completely different meanings. Both are emotions experienced by all people and can be strongly connected to love but in different ways. Let’s review the main differences between the two. 


First of all, let’s look at the etymology of these two words. It might seem that they have the same root, but it’s not quite so. 

The word "passion" comes from the Latin word "passio," which means "suffering" or "enduring." In medieval Latin, the term came to be associated with the sufferings of Christ, and eventually, it broadened to refer to intense feelings or emotions.

On the other hand, "compassion" comes from the Latin words "com" (meaning "together") and "pati" (meaning "to suffer"). The combination of these two words gives the meaning of "suffering together with another" or "sympathy." The term originally had a negative connotation of suffering alongside someone in their misfortune or sorrow, but it later evolved to have a positive connotation of empathy and understanding towards others.

To sum it up, both words have roots in suffering, but "passion" generally refers to intense emotions and desires, while "compassion" refers to empathy and understanding towards the suffering of others.

The Meaning of Passion

Nowadays, by passion we mean a strong feeling such as excitement, attraction, or commitment towards something or someone. A person can be passionate about a subject or an activity (music, dancing, traveling, sports, etc.) or another person (when they’re in love). Passion is what motivates and drives people to do things and can bring a sense of satisfaction, purpose and fulfillment to their lives.

The feeling of passion is self-centered, meaning that it comes from an individual’s own desires and needs. And it usually doesn’t last long. Passion can be aroused really quickly, and the same way it can change or disappear quickly as well. For example, love can easily turn into hatred, and vice versa, and both of these feelings are connected to passion. 

The Meaning of Compassion

Compassion is the feeling of deep sympathy, empathy, and concern for the suffering, pain, or misfortune of others. It also involves the desire to alleviate or ease the suffering of those who are experiencing this hardship or adversity. When a person feels compassion towards someone, they’re willing to comfort, support, or help them in some way. Compassion drives people to make selfless acts, such as giving money to a homeless person, listening attentively to a friend who’s in a difficult situation, taking care of a sick relative, etc.

Unlike passion, compassion is directed towards other people’s needs and wishes. The feeling of compassion is not necessarily as strong and intense as passion and might take longer to arise. But it’s also not as easily changeable and can last longer. 

Passionate vs Compassionate Love

One thing that unites passion and compassion is that both concepts are associated with love. However, passionate love and compassionate love are completely different things.

Passionate love is mostly associated with a strong physical attraction and intense emotions. It is often described as a "spark" or "fire" that ignites a relationship. Passion is usually present at the beginning of a romance and doesn’t always last long. Because passion is a selfish feeling, it doesn’t guarantee trust or understanding between the lovers. That’s why passionate love rarely leads to long-term relationships or marriage.

Compassionate love, on the contrary, is characterized by a feeling of deep concern for the well-being of another person. It can be used outside of the context of a romantic relationship. For example, people can have compassionate love towards their family members, friends, or even people they don’t know, as well as animals. Compassionate love is the one closest to “unconditional love”, the concept used in many spiritual traditions. It’s about respecting and loving everyone, no matter the circumstances.


Passion and compassion are two completely different emotions, but they’re both needed to keep a balance in one’s life. Without passion, a person might not have enough motivation to move forward and won’t feel happy or satisfied in life. However, when passion is not combined with compassion, there’s no place for real love and trust. That’s why both passion and compassion are needed in different fields of life, such as relationships and work.

This article was updated on April 19, 2023