empathy n.

the paranormal perception of others’ emotions; cf. empath n.

OED records various psychological senses of this word from the late nineteenth century onwards. Despite the context of our 1945 example, it is unclear whether this refers to the SF or the more general sense.

SF Encyclopedia


  • [ 1945 T. Sturgeon Killdozer! 230 Theodore Sturgeon bibliography

    Places with Typewriters: we are writing stories about the future about machines that think creatively…about empathy, second-order space, contra-terrene matter, levitation, astral separation, telepathy, the intuitive mutation, universal synthesis, time-travel, silicon life, and the evolution of intelligence in rats. ]

  • [1955 P. Anderson Long Way Home June 151/1 page image Poul Anderson bibliography

    In the case of Holat, the development was unique—the animal could not only receive the nervous impulses of others, but could at short range induce them. This was the basis of Holatan emotional empathy.]

  • 1956 ‘J. T. McIntosh’ Empath in New Worlds Aug. 40 J. T. McIntosh bibliography

    The Circle’s trying to get Tim without using empathy. They're all blanking out.

  • 1960 H. Harrison Deathworld in Astounding Science Fact & Fiction Feb. 136/2 Harry Harrison bibliography

    The talkers must have well-developed psi facilities, that was obvious now. There is no barrier of race or alien form when two creatures share each other’s emotions. Empathy first, so there would be no hatred or fear.

  • 1966 P. Anderson Ensign Flandry in Amazing Stories Oct. 39/2 page image Poul Anderson bibliography

    I can be equipped with electromagnetic sensors and transducers, to feel out a hidden circuit. In addition, I have developed an empathy with machines. I can be aware, on a level below consciousness, of what they are about to do, and adjust my behavior accordingly. It is analogous to my former perception, the normal one, of nuances in expression, tone, stance on the part of fellow Merseians whom I knew intimately.

  • 1971 J. Blish Star Trek 4 39 James Blish

    It appears it learned more from me during our empathy than I did from it.

  • 1974 P. Anderson Day of Their Return iii. 26 Poul Anderson bibliography

    I could never read your mind; that is impossible unless I have known a person long and well, and then I can merely translate surface thoughts, clearly formulated. I cannot project…Shall we say I have a minor gift of empathy?

  • 1982 C. Kapp Tyrant of Hades 11

    Whilst that frightful connector was in place every aspect of his being and existence was totally coupled to Zeus, the cybernetic complex which was so powerful that it had taken over from man the task of constructing and regulating the entire Solarian universe. But the linkage brought far more than an adjustment to his physical condition. Whilst the connection remained, even his brain shared some staggering empathy with the artificial intelligence of the giant machine. Although he soon became lost in the gulfs and voids between its mammoth electronic concepts, he was forced mentally to reach out and touch that most frightening entity of all…artificial intelligence…the machine Id…the personality which was the great computer itself.

  • 1983 S. Marshak & M. Culbreath Triangle v. 31 Sondra Marshak Myrna Culbreath bibliography

    Unless some alien interference had cut off the ‘carrier wave’ of some kind of empathy which they seemed to have between them.

  • 1993 D. Carey Great Starship Race xiv. 213 Diane Carey

    They'd shared empathy before, but this kind?

  • 1998 ‘L. A. Graf’ War Dragons viii. 132 Julia Ecklar Karen Rose Cercone bibliography

    And of course the undeniable necessity of empathy with my own very human sense of pride.

  • 2013 R. Riordan Percy Jackson and the Singer of Apollo in Other Worlds 25 page image Rick Riordan bibliography

    ‘It’s okay!’ I faked a smile, using our empathy link to tell him how I really felt. I couldn’t send complete thoughts, but I tried to get the general point across: He needed to be ready. He needed to be quick. I hoped he was a good catch.

Research requirements

antedating 1956

Earliest cite

J. T. McIntosh, "Empath"

Research History
Mike Christie submitted a 1956 cite from J.T. McIntosh's "Empath".
Douglas Winston submitted a cite from a 1969 reprint of Harry Harrison's "Deathworld", which Mike Christie verified in the 1960 magazine serialization.
Douglas Winston submitted a cite from a 1985 reprint of Poul Anderson's 1966 "Ensign Flandry".
Douglas Winston submitted a 2002 cite from a reprint of Sarah Zettel's "Kingdom of Cages".
Douglas Winston submitted a cite from a 1994 reprint of Poul Anderson's "The Day of Their Return", which Mike Christie located in an earlier reprint from 1975.
Douglas Winston submitted a cite from a 1984 Colin Kapp's "The Tyrant of Hades", which Mike Christie verified in the 1982 first edition.
Douglas Winston submitted a 1999 cite from Lisanne Norman's "Dark Nadir".
Malcolm Farmer submitted a 1955 cite from Poul Anderson's "The Long Way Home".
Ben Ostrowsky submitted a 2013 cite from Rick Riordan.

Last modified 2021-03-25 07:01:57
In the compilation of some entries, HDSF has drawn extensively on corresponding entries in OED.