"empath" as lexicographic lacuna

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Mon Nov 24 22:59:06 UTC 2008

What about "empathic" v. "empathetic"? The first I know from reading
SF in the 'Fifies. The second I hear on TV, in movies, and in novels.
However, from time to time, I occasionally hear "empathic" on TV. I'd
been beginning to fear that "empathic" was merely something made up by
some SF writer and not a "real" word.


All say, "How hard it is that we have to die"---a strange complaint to
come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
-Mark Twain

On Mon, Nov 24, 2008 at 11:17 AM, Benjamin Zimmer
<bgzimmer at babel.ling.upenn.edu> wrote:
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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Benjamin Zimmer <bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: "empath" as lexicographic lacuna
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> On Mon, Nov 24, 2008 at 11:08 AM, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at yale.edu> wrote:
>> I was curious about when the word was first attested,
>> and to my surprise _empath_ is unlisted in either the (online) OED or
>> AHD4, despite the fact that it has both a wikipedia entry (albeit
>> largely devoted to the science-fiction ESP-y variety of empath as
>> opposed to the more general sense invoked by Connelly's FBI agent and
>> the Acrostic designers) and "about 730,000" raw g-hits for the word.
> It's in the Science Fiction Citations database (on Jesse's site) and the book it
> spawned, _Brave New Words_. Here's the online entry, with cites back to 1956:
> http://www.jessesword.com/sf/view/450
> --Ben Zimmer
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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