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Empathic vs. Empathetic

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  Angbeen Chaudhary  —  Grammar Tips

The English language has evolved over the centuries. It incorporates new words, and phases old words out of common use. Variants that had previously been considered inferior rise to prominence, and come to be accepted. Language shift can be a beautiful thing. English is constantly changing, which can make it difficult for writers who are just starting to hone their craft, and new speakers of English, to find their footing. Empathetic and empathic, two words for the same concept, are an excellent example of this evolution. Neither was widely used until the 20th century, at which point empathic quickly became the preferred term. In recent years, empathetic has gained some standing, and may someday overtake empathic in the race for acceptance. For now, though, empathic remains the accepted term. Continue reading to discover why.

Empathic as adjective:

Empathic is used as an adjective which means showing an ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

She is an attentive, empathic listener.

It means having the ability to take another’s perspective. In common usage, it also usually entails a sensitivity to other people’s emotions.

An empathic nature may not confer an advantage in all professions.

Typical children develop a theory of mind using skills accumulated in the first five years of life, at which point they begin to show rudimentary empathic abilities.

Use of empathic:

Empathic is the most commonly used term. Empathic has been preferred since the early 20th century, when both of these words first gained popularity.


Empathic responding, most notably perspective-taking and empathic concern, has important implications for interpersonal functioning. [Journal of Marital and Family Therapy]

Few of us routinely practice empathic listening, the most advanced form of listening. [Stress Management for Life]

It must be explained, nonetheless, that natural healing relies basically on an empathic transfer of energy through healing hands or focused thought forms. [Natural Pet Healing]

Use of empathetic:

Empathetic is a variant of empathic. It likely found popularity as an analogy to the word sympathetic. It has never been as widely used as empathy.


His adversary, the Lorient coach Christian Gourcuff, tried to sound empathetic but probably made things worse. [New York Times]

When he talks about figit pie or bara brith it’s a stern reader that doesn’t find herself overtaken by a bout of empathetic dribbling. [Guardian]

Gran, the tough-but-fair warden in a juvenile detention centre, was one of Lilley’s finest and most empathetic creations. [Sydney Morning Herald]

Now, in a case like that, and in yours, one can’t help but feel empathetic, even a little impressed. [Globe and Mail]

Empathic or empathetic:

Empathic and empathetic are adjectives, and are two words for the concept of being able to adopt another person’s perspective and emotions. Empathic has been, and still is, the accepted variant. You can remember to avoid empathetic since it contains the word pathetic, and you should try not to be pathetic in your writing. Here is a helpful trick to remember empathetic vs. empathic. For now, you should always choose empathic. Empathetic is less common, and while there may come a day when it becomes the preferred variant, this switch hasn’t happened yet. Empathic is the correct word to use in all contexts today. Remembering to choose empathic is easy, since empathetic contains the word pathetic, and you should try not to be pathetic. This is a very blunt mnemonic. It may come across as overly harsh, but it’s also more memorable as a result.

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"Empathic vs. Empathetic." STANDS4 LLC, 2018. Web. 25 Feb. 2018. <>.

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