[ em-puh-thee ]
See synonyms for empathy on Thesaurus.com
  1. the psychological identification with or vicarious experiencing of the emotions, thoughts, or attitudes of another: She put an arm around her friend’s shoulders and stood by her in silent empathy.

  2. the imaginative ascribing to an object, as a natural object or work of art, feelings or attitudes present in oneself: By means of empathy, a great painting becomes a mirror of the self.

Origin of empathy

First recorded in 1900–05; from Greek empátheia “affection,” equivalent to em- “in, within” (see em-2) + path- (base of páschein “to suffer”) + -eia noun suffix (see -ia); its present meaning translates German Einfühlung

synonym study For empathy

1. See sympathy.

Words that may be confused with empathy

Words Nearby empathy

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use empathy in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for empathy


/ (ˈɛmpəθɪ) /

  1. the power of understanding and imaginatively entering into another person's feelings: See also identification (def. 3b)

  2. the attribution to an object, such as a work of art, of one's own emotional or intellectual feelings about it

Origin of empathy

C20: from Greek empatheia affection, passion, intended as a rendering of German Einfühlung, literally: a feeling in; see en- ², -pathy

Derived forms of empathy

  • empathist, noun

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

Cultural definitions for empathy


[ (em-puh-thee) ]

Identifying oneself completely with an object or person, sometimes even to the point of responding physically, as when, watching a baseball player swing at a pitch, one feels one's own muscles flex.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.