From the Greek pathos …

Sympathy is “commiseration, pity, or feelings of sorrow for someone else who is experiencing misfortune. ”

Empathy is “the capacity or ability to imagine oneself in the situation of another, experiencing the emotions, ideas, or opinions of that person.”


There is a lot of talk about empathy these days. Talk about design based on empathy and businesses having and supporting empathy with employees.

Somewhere along the lines I missed the change in the definition of these two words.

I looked up definitions, articles, videos and talks in sympathy and empathy. There seems to be many definitions.

I always assumed this definition: “Empathy is the ability to experience the feelings of another person. It goes beyond sympathy, which is caring and understanding for the suffering of others. ”


My son was born with empathy. He always could feel your emotions and would react almost as a reflection.

My daughter was born with natural sympathy. She instinctually knew what you needed and how to take care of it.

With the current definitions that people are using I have lost the word that describes feeling someone else’s emotions. My daughter now has empathy and my son has ???

The definition of sympathy seems to have morphed into the definition of pity.

So during this process of looking up definitions I learned a lot.

  • Language is very fluid
  • It does not matter what I think the meaning of a word is when everyone else uses it differently
  • My discomfort with the use of the word empathy in design circles and business was because the meaning changed
  • People make videos about these two words all the time
  • Empathy is a fad right now
  • Empathy is now what I thought sympathy was and sympathy has become another word for pity