A twentieth-century borrowing from Ancient Greek ἐμπάθεια (empátheia, literally passion) (formed from ἐν (en, in, at) + πάθος (páthos, feeling)), coined by Edward Bradford Titchener in 1909 to translate German Einfühlung. The modern word in Greek εμπάθεια (empátheia) has an opposite meaning denoting strong negative feelings and prejudice against someone.


  • IPA(key): /ˈɛmpəθi/
  • (file)


empathy (countable and uncountable, plural empathies)

  1. Identification with or understanding of the thoughts, feelings, or emotional state of another person.
    Synonym: fellow feeling
    She had a lot of empathy for her neighbor; she knew what it was like to lose a parent too.
  2. Capacity to understand another person's point of view or the result of such understanding.
  3. (parapsychology, science fiction) A paranormal ability to psychically read another person's emotions.
  4. (obsolete slang) MDMA.
    Synonym: ecstasy

Usage notesEdit

Used similarly to sympathy, interchangeably in looser usage. In stricter usage, empathy is stronger and more intimate, meaning that the subject understands and shares an emotion with the object—as in “I feel your pain”—while sympathy is weaker and more distant—concern, but not shared emotion: “I care for you” or "I feel sorry for you."

Derived termsEdit


See alsoEdit

Further readingEdit

  •   empathy on Wikipedia.Wikipedia
  • empathy at OneLook Dictionary Search
  • empathy in Keywords for Today: A 21st Century Vocabulary, edited by The Keywords Project, Colin MacCabe, Holly Yanacek, 2018.
  • empathy in The Century Dictionary, New York, N.Y.: The Century Co., 1911