‘Empathetic' vs 'Empathic': What's the Difference?

By Shanea Patterson, updated on February 3, 2023

The words ‘empathetic’ and ‘empathic’ sound very similar but not quite the same. You might be wondering what the difference is and how to use each word correctly. We’ll cover that in this article and provide plenty of examples that show you how to use them in a sentence.

In short, the difference between these words is:

  • ‘Empathic’ is simply a variant of ‘empathetic.’
  • ‘Empathetic’ means the ability to understand and share the feelings of someone else. It’s an adjective.

They both come from the noun ‘empathy.’

‘Empathetic’ vs. Sympathetic vs. ‘Empathic’

‘Empathetic’ is the ability to understand and share the feelings of someone else.

‘Sympathetic’ is when you understand the feelings of someone else but don’t feel them as if you were them.

‘Empathic’ is simply a variant of ‘empathetic’ that first emerged in 1909. They sound similar but not the same, which means they don't qualify as homophones.

‘Empathic’ vs. ‘Empathetic’ – Which is Correct?

Since we know that one is a variant of the other, they can both be considered correct. People often use the terms interchangeably because the meaning hasn’t really changed since the introduction of ‘empathetic’ in 1932.

Therefore, you should feel free to use either word in your writing.

Definition and Meaning of ‘Empathetic’ and ‘Empathic’

To get a better understanding of the words, let’s define them. A quick peek at the Merriam-Webster dictionary shows that the words mean involving, characterized by, or based on empathy.

And we know that empathy means the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experiences of someone else, either in the past or present, without having those thoughts, feelings, and experiences fully communicated.

Pronunciation: How to Pronounce ‘Empathetic’ and ‘Empathic’

Wondering how to pronounce these words correctly? Here’s a short guide.

  • To pronounce ‘empathetic’ correctly here’s the phonetic spelling: EM-PUH-THET-IK
  • To pronounce ‘empathic’ correctly here’s the phonetic spelling: EM-pAHth-IK

How to Use ‘Empathetic’ and ‘Empathic’ in a Sentence

Now that we know what the words mean and how to pronounce them let’s take a look at how to use them in a sentence.

  • I’ve always been told I’m an empathetic person because I feel what others feel.
  • I don’t want to be an empathic person anymore. It’s too overwhelming to feel everyone’s feelings all the time.
  • Those with an empathetic gift or ability have a special ability to connect with others without saying a single word.
  • Empathic people might find it hard to find peace of mind if they don’t hone their gifts and natural abilities.
  • I can’t believe I’m an empathic person. This explains so much of my life.
  • My mom is so empathetic to the plight of others. She’s always helping people.

Concluding Thoughts on ‘Empathetic’ and ‘Empathic’

To recap, we learned that the difference between these words is: 

  • ‘Empathic’ is an incorrect variant of ‘empathetic.’
  • ‘Empathetic’ is an adjective that means the ability to understand and share the feelings of someone else.

They both originate from the noun ‘empathy.’

If you ever get stuck on usage or meaning, don’t be afraid to come back here and refresh your memory. We’ve got a ton of other content on other confusing words and phrases you might come across in the English language. Feel free to check it out anytime.

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Written By:
Shanea Patterson
Shanea Patterson is a writer based in New York and loves writing for brands big and small. She has a master's degree in professional writing from New York University and a bachelor's degree in English from Mercy College.

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