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From: Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913)

 Con·grat·u·late v. t. [imp. & p. p. Congratulated; p. pr. & vb. n. Congratulating.]  To address with expressions of sympathetic pleasure on account of some happy event affecting the person addressed; to wish joy to.
    It is the king's most sweet pleasure and affection to congratulate the princess at her pavilion.   --Shak.
 To congratulate one's self, to rejoice; to feel satisfaction; to consider one's self happy or fortunate.
 Syn: -- To Congratulate, Felicitate.
 Usage: To felicitate is simply to wish a person joy. To congratulate has the additional signification of uniting in the joy of him whom we congratulate.  Hence they are by no means synonymous. One who has lost the object of his affections by her marriage to a rival, might perhaps felicitate that rival on his success, but could never be expected to congratulate him on such an event.
    Felicitations are little better than compliments; congratulations are the expression of a genuine sympathy and joy.   --Trench.