Mr Cameron suffered the shock defeat after 30 of his own Conservative Party, and nine Liberal Democrats, joined Labour in opposing any UK intervention against President Bashar Assad's regime.
Amid calls from the Labour benches for the prime minister to resign, he gave assurances that the will of the House of Commons would be respected but still wanted to see a strong response.
"It is clear to me that the British Parliament, reflecting the views of the British people, does not want to see British military action," Mr Cameron said.
"I get that and the Government will act accordingly."
On Friday night Downing Street said US President Barack Obama told the PM he "fully respected" the approach he has taken over Syria in a telephone call.
President Obama insisted he was undecided about the prospect of US military action but said any action would be "limited".
Meanwhile US Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters in Washington that there is "compelling" evidence that Bashar Assad's regime launched a chemical weapons attack on the outskirts of Damascus last week.
He put the death toll at more than 1,400, including 426 children.
Years ago, a prime minister bringing a vote to go to war - who lost that vote - would have to resign ...
Ken Reid, UTV Political Editor
UTV's Political Editor Ken Reid said that the real political implication was that David Cameron had been severely weakened by what happened.
"We know that on Wednesday, he spent a long time on the phone with Nigel Dodds - the DUP leader in the House of Commons - trying to persuade him and the DUP to vote with the government," he added.
"What that proves is how vulnerable the prime minister knew he was at that stage."
But five of the DUP - Nigel Dodds, Gregory Campbell, Jeffrey Donaldson, Sammy Wilson and Jim Shannon - voted against the motion.
"It would be taking sides in what is a civil war where both sides are equally brutal and the rebel side is increasingly seen to be driven by Islamic fundamentalist terrorists," Mr Wilson said.
"The conflict does not present a direct threat to the United Kingdom, nor will intervention prevent further use of chemical weapons.
"It would increase the risk of the Syria government trying to broaden the conflict which would lead to even greater instability in the countries surrounding Syria, causing a real threat to world peace."
It was cavalier and reckless leadership that was taking Britain potentially into war without going through the United Nations, without putting the evidence properly before the British Parliament.
Ed Miliband, Labour leader
Alliance MP Naomi Long and three of the SDLP - Alasdair McDonnell, Mark Durkan and Margaret Ritchie - plus Independent MP for North Down Lady Sylvia Hermon, also voted against the motion.
"There appear to be two conflicting objectives in what was set out by the prime minister by calling for military intervention," Ms Long said.
"On one hand, he has made it clear that the intervention for which he sought support would be exclusively related to policing the use of chemical weapons - however, on the other hand, the legal justification set before parliament was on the basis of a humanitarian intervention.
"The conditions for such an intervention could theoretically have been met in Syria at any time over the last two years as the regime has slaughtered its own people with conventional weapons and, even if the targeted action on chemical weapons were entirely successful, it would still exist in their absence. How then could we end our intervention in such circumstances?
"We would be allowing the UK to become embroiled on one side of a bloody civil war, from which it would be hard to disengage or avoid being drawn further in."
Mr McDonnell added: "We cannot afford another Afghanistan or Iraq.
"We risk unleashing further chaos on a country in the depths of a civil conflict and profound humanitarian crisis; we risk making it even more difficult for aid organisations to do their job; we risk destabilising any hope for peace talks or a political solution.
"And ultimately, we risk pushing a country that is already in grave danger over the precipice."
The DUP's Ian Paisley Junior, William McCrea and David Simpson were not present for the vote.
Sinn Féin's five MPs - Conor Murphy, Paul Maskey, Francie Molloy, Pat Doherty and Michelle Gildernew - abstain from taking their Westminster seats.
"World leaders should be rational and smart enough to know that European and American bombs won't bring peace to Syria," Mr Murphy said.
"Only a negotiated peace settlement and process will do that. They cannot bomb Syria into peace."