Commonly Confused Words: Empathetic vs. Empathic

Are you an empath? Or are you empathetic? There seems to be some confusion about empathetic vs. empathic, and with good reason. While many sources claim that both words are interchangeable, others claim they have different perceived meanings, depending on who you ask. Learn the similarities and differences between empathetic and empathic and how to use them correctly.

Empathetic vs. Empathic at a Glance

  • Empathetic: The ability to understand someone else’s emotions. To show that you know how they feel.
  • Empathic: Some sources claim this word shares the same definition as empathetic and that the two words are interchangeable. However, other sources claim the definition of empathic is someone who is so finely tuned to the feelings and emotions of those around them that they physically and emotionally feel their emotions. This makes the word very different from empathetic.

When To Use Empathetic

To demonstrate empathy, one must understand what another person feels and why. The empathetic must be able to acknowledge what someone is going through and how it has affected them. 

If you have a friend or loved one who has experienced hardship, it isn’t tough to imagine being there for them. However, it’s another thing entirely to try and put yourself in their shoes and feel what they feel. Being empathetic toward someone’s feelings is something you must understand to use the word correctly in a sentence.

Empathetic Examples

  • “Jill’s empathetic response made him feel understood and supported.”
  • “Marcus was very empathetic when I lost my cat.”

When To Use Empathic

To some, empathic means the same as empathetic and, therefore, would be used in the same way using the same examples. However, we are using the meaning of empathic shared by millions, where the word doesn’t simply mean to understand someone else’s feelings. They feel what the other person feels.

According to Very Well Mind, empaths go a step further than just understanding others’ emotions. An empath wouldn’t just understand their friend’s sadness; they might feel the sadness just as deeply themselves, almost as though they experienced the pain or loss first-hand.

Empathic Examples

  • “As an empathic listener, Anton often felt overwhelmed by the emotions of others during intense conversations.”
  • “Cheryl’s empathic abilities allowed her to sense the deep sadness George felt, even though he was smiling.”

Can You Feel What I’m Saying?

Whether you agree that empathic and empathetic share the same definition or not, many people believe that feeling empathy and being an empath are very different things, and therefore, the words have very different meanings. 

When it comes to empathetic vs. empathic, just remember always to be empathetic toward another person’s feelings – unless you are an empath and actually feel their emotions as if they were your own.

To learn more about words that sound alike or have similar meanings, view our resources on other confusing words.


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