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[vahy-kair-ee-uh s, vi-] /vaɪˈkɛər i əs, vɪ-/
performed, exercised, received, or suffered in place of another:
vicarious punishment.
taking the place of another person or thing; acting or serving as a substitute.
felt or enjoyed through imagined participation in the experience of others:
a vicarious thrill.
Physiology. noting or pertaining to a situation in which one organ performs part of the functions normally performed by another.
Origin of vicarious
1630-40; < Latin vicārius substituting, equivalent to vic(is) (genitive) interchange, alternation (see vice3), + -ārius -ary; see -ous
Related forms
vicariously, adverb
vicariousness, vicariism, noun
nonvicarious, adjective
nonvicariously, adverb
nonvicariousness, noun
unvicarious, adjective
unvicariously, adverb
unvicariousness, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for vicarious
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • I could, perhaps, wring a somber, vicarious joy from the things that might have been.

    The Worlds of If Stanley Grauman Weinbaum
  • Thus she can have a vicarious career by virtue of what she has put into her husband's.

  • It is vicarious suffering; for they do not know what is perplexing us.

  • There they met all the vicarious members of the Pullman Club—the wives.

    Skinner's Dress Suit

    Henry Irving Dodge
  • It is true, it was a vicarious experience, else he would not have lived to profit by it.

    The Call of the Wild Jack London
British Dictionary definitions for vicarious


/vɪˈkɛərɪəs; vaɪ-/
obtained or undergone at second hand through sympathetic participation in another's experiences
suffered, undergone, or done as the substitute for another: vicarious punishment
delegated: vicarious authority
taking the place of another
(pathol) (of menstrual bleeding) occurring at an abnormal site See endometriosis
Derived Forms
vicariously, adverb
vicariousness, noun
Word Origin
C17: from Latin vicārius substituted, from vicis interchange; see vice³, vicissitude
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for vicarious

1630s, from Latin vicarius "substitute, deputy" (adj. and n.), from vicis "turn, change, exchange, substitution," from PIE root *weik-, *weig- "to bend, wind" (cf. Sanskrit visti "changing, changeable;" Old English wician "to give way, yield," wice "wych elm;" Old Norse vikja "to bend, turn;" Swedish viker "willow twig, wand;" German wechsel "change"). Related: Vicariously.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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vicarious in Medicine

vicarious vi·car·i·ous (vī-kâr'ē-əs, -kār'-, vĭ-)

  1. Felt or undergone as if one were taking part in the experience or feelings of another.

  2. Occurring in or performed by a part of the body not normally associated with a certain function.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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