empathic adj.

having the ability of an empath n.

The OED has evidence from 1912 for the general psychological sense ‘demonstrating empathy; able to feel empathy towards a person’.


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

    His new assistant was not a telepath—it could not read thoughts—but it was sensitive to feelings and emotions and would therefore have been aware of Conway’s curiosity. Conway felt like kicking himself for forgetting that empathic faculty.

  • 1967 P. K. Dick Faith of our Fathers in H. Ellison Dangerous Visions 200 page image Philip K. Dick bibliography

    He heard his voice, toneless, sounding the poverty of empathic emotionality so usual in Party circles.

  • 1972 J. Blish Star Trek 8 117 James Blish

    The Argelian empathic contact, sir?

  • 1976 C. Kapp Survival Game vii. 43 Colin Kapp bibliography

    He was acutely conscious that the task of snatching control away from the ghost was nearly beyond his technical capabilities. The ransad ghost, unlike radio control, was an organic, empathic coupling, not designed to be rejected from the receiving end.

  • 1983 J. DeChancie Starrigger (1991) 252 John DeChancie bibliography

    At first, she barely acknowledged her onetime friend and interpreter. Perhaps she read the guilt in Darla’s face, invisible to me, but by now Winnie’s empathic powers were a given. I only wondered as to their extent. Whatever that was, I knew that Winnie’s second sight was keen enough to see Darla’s grief, and perhaps her regret at using Winnie as a pawn, because before long Winnie was hugging Darla too, her capacity for forgiveness and compassion probably greater than anything.

  • 1992 P. David Imzadi v. 33 Peter David bibliography

    Betazoids walked a fine line between a desire for privacy and acceptance of its impossibility—for amidst an empathic society, privacy was at best a pretense and it was rude to pretend otherwise.

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

    '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 Extrapolation Spring 9

    This woman just happens to be a ‘female empathic mesomorph’.

  • 1998 W. Shatner et al. Spectre xxviii. 335 William Shatner bibliography

    He wanted there to be some way it would be caught up by Deanna’s empathic ability and taken from him forever.

  • 2013 N. Novik Rocks Fall in Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination 293 page image Naomi Novik bibliography

    You’re a fourth-generation superhero, you grew up on the squad training grounds, you’ve got minor empathic abilities and your personality profile is outgoing and humanistic.

Research requirements

antedating 1959

Research History
Malcolm Farmer submitted a cite from a 1999 reprint of David Weber's "On Basilisk Station", and Michael Dolbear verified the cite in a 1994 printing.
Mike Christie submitted a cite from a 1990 reprint of Dan Simmons' "Hyperion".
Christopher Davis submitted a cite from a reprint of James White's "Visitor At Large"; Mike Christie verified the cite in the 1959 first magazine appearance.
Douglas Winston submitted a cite from an undated reprint of John DeChancie's 1983 "Starrigger".
Douglas Winston submitted a 1976 cite from Colin Kapp's "The Survival Game".
Douglas Winston submitted a cite from a 1970 reprint of Anne McCaffrey's 1969 "The Partnered Ship".
Ben Ostrowsky submitted a 2013 cite from Naomi Novik.

The OED has cites back to 1909 for the non-SF meaning.

Last modified 2021-10-07 16:41:57
In the compilation of some entries, HDSF has drawn extensively on corresponding entries in OED.