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A twentieth-century borrowing of Ancient Greek ἐμπάθεια ‎(empátheia, literally passion) (formed from ἐν ‎(en, in, at) + πάθος ‎(páthos, feeling)), coined by Edward Bradford Titchener to translate German Einfühlung. The modern Greek word εμπάθεια ‎(empátheia) has an opposite meaning denoting strong negative feelings and prejudice against someone.


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empathy ‎(countable and uncountable, plural empathies)

  1. the intellectual identification of the thoughts, feelings, or state of another person
  2. capacity to understand another person's point of view or the result of such understanding
    She had a lot of empathy for her neighbor; she knew what it was like to lose a parent too.
  3. (parapsychology, science fiction) a paranormal ability to psychically read another person's emotions

Usage notes[edit]

Used similarly to sympathy, interchangeably in looser usage. In stricter usage, empathy is stronger and more intimate, meaning that the subject understands and shares an emotion with the object – as in “I feel your pain” – while sympathy is weaker and more distant – concern, but not shared emotion: “I care for you”.