Definition of empathy in English:



mass noun
  • The ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

    • ‘Among the violence, there are also moments of empathy and humanity, which shine out like a beacon.’
    • ‘Such a metaphor betrays a complete lack of understanding, of empathy with Victorian culture.’
    • ‘There is a frightening lack of empathy and of understanding of the condition of the elderly.’
    • ‘The money will be used to fund an initiative designed to help offenders develop empathy with their victims.’
    • ‘Nothing was done for effect, he was incredibly generous, talented and showed great empathy.’
    • ‘All art criticism is necessarily subjective, but such complete empathy with an artist is rare.’
    • ‘I feel a degree of empathy for the man held hostage, and for his family.’
    • ‘People here have a warm way of showing empathy but at the same time respecting your private grief.’
    • ‘Her experiences gave her a sense of empathy and responsibility, she says.’
    • ‘He has no empathy with, or sympathy for, this officer who has children to think about.’
    • ‘Often politicians are accused of having no powers of empathy whatsoever.’
    • ‘Because we have that empathy, we are good at sympathetically guiding and advising.’
    • ‘A little bit of empathy and understanding might go a long way in making their life easier.’
    • ‘The use of touch with reflexology breaks down barriers and establishes empathy.’
    • ‘It is easy to understand the natural empathy between a Prime Minister and a top football manager.’
    • ‘That almost supernatural talent for empathy was his greatest political gift.’
    • ‘It was an act, first and foremost, of solidarity with the victims and of empathy with their families.’
    • ‘She had no hidden agenda, no axe to grind, just great empathy and overwhelming sympathy.’
    • ‘Finally, proximity makes for empathy and justifies the inevitable risks for intervention.’
    • ‘I was a few paces on before I even considered my selfishness and lack of empathy.’
    compassion, sympathy, pity, feeling, concern, considerateness, consideration, tenderness, tender-heartedness, kindness, kind-heartedness, sensitivity, insight, fellow feeling, brotherly love, neighbourliness, decency, humanity, humanitarianism, humaneness, charity, goodwill, mercy, mercifulness, gentleness, tolerance, lenience, leniency, warmth, warm-heartedness, affection, love
    View synonyms


People often confuse the words empathy and sympathy. Empathy means ‘the ability to understand and share the feelings of another’ (as in both authors have the skill to make you feel empathy with their heroines), whereas sympathy means ‘feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else's misfortune’ (as in they had great sympathy for the flood victims)


Early 20th century: from Greek empatheia (from em- ‘in’ + pathos ‘feeling’) translating German Einfühlung.