Meaning of “sorry” in the English Dictionary

"sorry" in British English

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uk /ˈsɒr.i/ us /ˈsɔːr.i/

sorry adjective (SAD)

A2 [ after verb ] feeling sadness, sympathy, or disappointment, especially because something unpleasant has happened or been done:

I'm just sorry about all the trouble I've caused her.
He'd really upset her and he didn't seem at all sorry.
[ + (that) ] I'm sorry (that) you had such a difficult journey.
[ + to infinitive ] We were both sorry to hear you've been ill again.
I feel so sorry for their kids - it must be really hard for them.
feel sorry for yourself disapproving

to feel sad because you have a problem and you feel that it is not fair that you are suffering so much:

He sounded very sorry for himself on the phone.
I'm sorry to say

used to show that something that must be said causes sadness or disappointment:

I'm sorry to say that the project's funding has been cancelled.
Most people who start the exercise class do, I'm sorry to say, give up within the first two weeks.

More examples

  • I feel sorry for the kids, too - they've had a hard time.
  • I was sorry to hear about your trouble on holiday.
  • I feel so sorry for people in that situation.
  • I'm just sorry about messing him around again.
  • I'm sorry you're ill - I hope you get well soon.

sorry adjective (APOLOGY)

A1 [ after verb ] used to say that you wish you had not done what you have done, especially when you want to be polite to someone you have done something bad to:

Oh, I'm sorry - I didn't see you there.
Tom, I'm so sorry about last night - it was all my fault.
I've said I'm sorry.

More examples

  • I'm sorry that I wasn't able to phone you yesterday.
  • I'm sorry I'm late.
  • I'm genuinely sorry for what I said, I really am.
  • I'm sorry, I was only trying to be helpful.
  • I'm so sorry to keep you waiting.

sorry adjective (SAYING NO)

I'm sorry

More examples

  • I'm sorry, I totally disagree with you.
  • I'm sorry, madam, the restaurant is fully booked.
  • I'm sorry, madam, but we have to go by the rules.
  • I'm sorry, but you'll just have to wait your turn like everybody else.
  • I'm sorry, but I'm too busy to help you now - I can only do one thing at a time.

B2 used to show politeness when refusing something or disagreeing:

I'm sorry, but I think you've made a mistake.
I'm sorry, I can't agree.


uk /ˈsɒr.i/ us /ˈsɔːr.i/

sorry exclamation (APOLOGY)

used when apologizing for something:

"That's my foot you're stepping on." "Sorry!"

More examples

  • Sorry - I didn't catch what you said.
  • Sorry, could you say that again?
  • Sorry, this area is closed to the public.
  • Sorry, I can't let you in without identification.
  • Sorry, can I see your pass?

sorry exclamation (POLITE NEGATIVE)

used to show politeness when refusing something or disagreeing:

Sorry, you can't go in there.

used when politely asking someone to repeat something or when politely interrupting someone:

"He's late." "Sorry?" "I said he's late."
Sorry, could you just say that last sentence again please?

(Definition of “sorry” from the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)

"sorry" in American English

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us /ˈsɑr·i, ˈsɔr·i/

sorry adjective (ASKING FORGIVENESS)

feeling bad because you have caused trouble or difficulty to someone else:

[ + (that) clause ] I’m really sorry (that) I forgot about our appointment yesterday.

Sorry is also used as a polite way to show your sympathy to someone because of a loss, problem, or trouble the person has had:

[ + to infinitive ] We were sorry to learn about the death of your grandmother.

Sorry is also used as a polite way of asking someone to excuse you for having done something that might have annoyed the person:

The train will be moving shortly – we are sorry for the inconvenience.

sorry adjective (POLITE REFUSAL)

used as a polite way of expressing refusal or disagreement:

I’m sorry, but I think you’ve made a mistake in our check.
Sorry, you can’t go in there.

sorry adjective (BAD CONDITION)

[ -er/-est only ] dated so bad as to cause feelings of sympathy:

They were a sorry sight, dressed in rags and so weak they could hardly stand up.
Note: describing a situation or condition

(Definition of “sorry” from the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)