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[em-puh-thee] /ˈɛm pə θi/
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 confused
empathy, sympathy (see synonym study at sympathy)
1. See sympathy. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for empathy
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • empathy can perhaps explain the appeal of the big in art and nature.

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

    Millennium Everett B. Cole
  • Beyond those simple things lay telepathy, telekinesis, empathy….

    Earthmen Bearing Gifts Fredric Brown
  • The empathy game has been played with words and theatrics in many schools.

  • There is a great deal of empathy between people who are not only of the same age, but genetically identical.

    Anything You Can Do ... Gordon Randall Garrett
British Dictionary definitions for empathy


the power of understanding and imaginatively entering into another person's feelings See also identification (sense 3b)
the attribution to an object, such as a work of art, of one's own emotional or intellectual feelings about it
Derived Forms
empathist, noun
Word Origin
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
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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
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empathy in Medicine

empathy em·pa·thy (ěm'pə-thē)

  1. Direct identification with, understanding of, and vicarious experience of another person's situation, feelings, and motives.

  2. The projection of one's own feelings or emotional state onto an object or animal.

em'pa·thet'ic (-thět'ĭk) or em·path'ic (-pāth'ĭk) adj.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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empathy in Culture
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 American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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