[vahy-kair-ee-uh s, vi-]


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 formsvi·car·i·ous·ly, adverbvi·car·i·ous·ness, vi·car·i·ism, nounnon·vi·car·i·ous, adjectivenon·vi·car·i·ous·ly, adverbnon·vi·car·i·ous·ness, nounun·vi·car·i·ous, adjectiveun·vi·car·i·ous·ly, adverbun·vi·car·i·ous·ness, noun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for vicarious

Contemporary Examples of vicarious

Historical Examples of vicarious

  • 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.

British Dictionary definitions for vicarious



obtained or undergone at second hand through sympathetic participation in another's experiences
suffered, undergone, or done as the substitute for anothervicarious punishment
delegatedvicarious authority
taking the place of another
pathol (of menstrual bleeding) occurring at an abnormal siteSee endometriosis
Derived Formsvicariously, adverbvicariousness, noun

Word Origin for vicarious

C17: from Latin vicārius substituted, from vicis interchange; see vice ³, 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

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

vicarious in Medicine


[vī-kârē-əs, vĭ-]


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