empath n.

a person or being with the paranormal ability to perceive or share the feelings or emotional state of another


  • 1956 ‘J. T. McIntosh’ Empath in New Worlds Aug. 30 page image J. T. McIntosh bibliography

    ‘How exactly does the government use empaths?’ Tim shrugged. ‘We can tell the level of a man’s loyalty just by meeting him. We can walk around a factory and sense that there’s going to be a strike.’

  • 1957 R. Silverberg Warm Man in Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction May 55/2 page image Robert Silverberg bibliography

    Irony: the compulsive empath overloaded and burned out by a compulsive sender who’d been bottled up.

  • 1959 J. White Visitor at Large in New Worlds Science Fiction June 8 page image James White bibliography

    Prilicla, he realised uncomfortably, was an empath. The being had not said very much since they had met a short time ago, but everything that it had said had backed up Conway’s feelings in the particular matter under discussion. His new assistant was not a telepath—it could not read thoughts—but it was sensitive to feelings and would therefore have been aware of Conway’s curiosity.

  • 1968 H. Ellison Try a Dull Knife in Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction Oct. 71/1 page image Harlan Ellison bibliography

    That was Eddie Burma’s problem. He was an empath. He felt. Deep inside himself, on a level most people never even know exists, he felt for the world.

  • 1971 U. K. Le Guin Vaster Than Empires & More Slow in E. S. Rabkin Science Fiction: Historical Anthology (1983) 496 Ursula K. Le Guin bibliography

    Mr Osden, being an empath, feels it. Feels his feelings, and yours, and is hard put to say which is which.

  • 1973 A. McCaffrey in Analog Science Fiction/Fact July 24/2 Anne McCaffrey

    We are both agreed that she is a broadcasting empath?

  • 1991 M. Weiss King's Test iv.iii.323

    The empath nearly shriveled up into a ball.

  • 1992 P. David Imzadi (1993) 121 Peter David bibliography

    Deanna’s no mind reader. She’s an empath. She senses moods, emotions, feelings.

  • 1993 D. Weber On Basilisk Station (1999) 8 David Weber

    'Cats rated a point-eight-three on the sentience scale, slightly above Beowulf’s gremlins or Old Earth’s dolphins, and they were empaths. Even now, no one had any idea how the empathic links worked, but separating one from its chosen companion caused it intense pain, and it had been established early on that those favored by a 'cat were measurably more stable than those without.

  • 1995 Interzone Mar. 55/1

    The novella ‘Need’ (1960) is one of the best of his psi -stories, but it is also one of the most harrowing; here the possession of a superhuman sensitivity becomes an alienating force in its own right, and the self-knowledge which the protagonist gains by virtue of his association with the empath is coldly unflattering.

  • 2011 C. Miéville Embassytown 62 page image China Miéville bibliography

    There are no telepaths in this universe, I think, but there are empathies, with languages so silent that they may as well be sharing thoughts. The Hosts are not like that. They’re empaths of another kind. ... Their language is organised noise, like all of ours are, but for them each word is a funnel. Where to us each word means something, to the Hosts, each is an opening. A door, through which the thought of that referent, the thought itself that reached for that word, can be seen.

Research requirements

antedating 1956

Earliest cite

J.T. McIntosh, Empath

Research History
Enoch Forrester submitted a cite from a reprint of Harlan Ellison's "Try A Dull Knife"; Mike Christie verified it in the 1968 original magazine appearance.
Robert Carnegie located a cite in James White's "Visitor At Large", and Mike Christie verified it in the original 1959 magazine appearance.
Jeff Prucher submitted a cite from a 1995 reprint of Octavia Butler's 1993 novel "The Parable of the Sower".
Katrina Campbell submitted a cite from a reprint of Anne McCaffrey's "A Bridle for Pegasus"; Mike Christie verified the cite in the 1973 first appearance.
Enoch Forrester submitted a cite from a 1993 reprint of Peter David's "Imzadi".
Malcolm Farmer submitted a cite from a 1999 reprint of David Weber's 1993 "On Basilisk Station".
Fred Galvin submitted a 1957 cite from Robert Silverberg's "Warm Man".
Fred Galvin suggested J.T. Mcintosh's story "Empath"; Mike Christie confirmed this in its 1956 original publication.
Ben Ostrowsky submitted a 2011 cite from China Miéville's "Embassytown".

Last modified 2021-08-18 15:19:05
In the compilation of some entries, HDSF has drawn extensively on corresponding entries in OED.