What is empathetic and what is empathic? Here’s a question we don’t ask nearly enough. After all, the English language just has so many similar words and notions. It’s even worse when there isn’t exactly a fixed pattern to help you figure things out better. Sometimes two words can mean completely different things. Sometimes these two words are pretty much the same thing. What’s the case with this example then? Well, they both mean the exact same thing. So, here’s what the deal with these two concepts is.
What Is Empathic?
Empathic, the relatively commonly-known word, refers to a person with a strong sense of empathy. In other words, it’s someone who can really put themselves in someone’s else’s shoes and feel strongly the same kind of emotions the other person is feeling. It’s the kind of trait that we could all be a little happier with, if we are allowed this humble opinion.
What Is Empathetic?
It’s the exact same thing.
The biggest and only difference between these two words comes simply from the shape. However, their sense is still the same. In order to understand where this pairing came from and whether one of them is more wrong than the other, we’ll be doing some digging into their history.
Empathic vs Empathetic: Which One’s Right?
First of all, you might find some grammar experts who make the claim that out of the two, ‘empathic’ is the correct, generally accepted version. On the other hand, empathetic is nothing more but a derivation which has no place in any dictionary.
This could have something to do with the simple fact that ‘empathic’ is the older version. Having been initially used as early as the 1900s, it was followed up by the ‘empathetic’ variant whose first documented use was around the 1930s. Linguists ‘blame’ this on the pairing sympathy – sympathetic. Since ‘sympathy’ and ‘empathy’ have similar shapes, some thought that it was strange the adjective form for ‘empathy’ wasn’t ‘empathetic.’
However, just because one version is older than other, that shouldn’t immediately disqualify its other variant. After all, it’s not difficult to see where those who popularized the alternate word are coming from. Especially given the context with the previously mentioned ‘sympathy’ case, it would actually make sense to consider ‘empathetic’ as the correct form. More people will likely jump on board of this train, though, and there is a huge likelihood these two words will soon start to drift away in sense as well. As a matter of fact, we could argue there is already a growing gap between them.
You could easily use the word ‘empathetic’ to refer to a normal feeling of empathy while ‘empathic’ could specifically describe an empath, a pretty novel word in itself. Being empathetic does not make you an empath, whereas being empathic does. See where we’re going?
And that was the answer to the question: what is empathetic? This wasn’t one of your typical grammar lessons. Unlike the situations discussed there, the gap between these two words is barely significant. There is no right or wrong usage of either of these terms… for now.