the psychological identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.
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

1900–05; < Greek empátheia affection, equivalent to em- em-2 + path- (base of páschein to suffer) + -eia -ia; present meaning translates German Einfühlung
Can be confusedempathy sympathy (see synonym study at sympathy)

Synonyms for empathy

1. See sympathy.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for empathy

Contemporary Examples of empathy

Historical Examples of empathy

  • But there's no higher mentality to develop—not a trace of empathy.


    Everett B. Cole

  • The empathy game has been played with words and theatrics in many schools.

  • Perhaps because of empathy, the "feeling oneself into" the object contemplated.


    Robert S. Woodworth

  • Perhaps the fascination of fire is empathy of a similar sort; for fire is power.


    Robert S. Woodworth

  • Empathy can perhaps explain the appeal of the big in art and nature.


    Robert S. Woodworth

British Dictionary definitions for empathy



the power of understanding and imaginatively entering into another person's feelingsSee also identification (def. 3b)
the attribution to an object, such as a work of art, of one's own emotional or intellectual feelings about it
Derived Formsempathist, noun

Word Origin for empathy

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

Word Origin and History for empathy

1903, from German Einfühlung (from ein "in" + Fühlung "feeling"), coined 1858 by German philosopher Rudolf Lotze (1817-1881) as a translation of Greek empatheia "passion, state of emotion," from en "in" (see en- (2)) + pathos "feeling" (see pathos). A term from a theory of art appreciation that maintains appreciation depends on the viewer's ability to project his personality into the viewed object.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Medicine definitions for empathy




Direct identification with, understanding of, and vicarious experience of another person's situation, feelings, and motives.
The projection of one's own feelings or emotional state onto an object or animal.
Related formsem′pa•thetic (-thĕtĭk) null adj.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Culture definitions for empathy



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.