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adjective vi·car·i·ous \vī-ˈker-ē-əs, və-\

Simple Definition of vicarious

  • : experienced or felt by watching, hearing about, or reading about someone else rather than by doing something yourself

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of vicarious

  1. 1 a :  serving instead of someone or something else b :  that has been delegated <vicarious authority>

  2. 2 :  performed or suffered by one person as a substitute for another or to the benefit or advantage of another :  substitutionary <a vicarious sacrifice>

  3. 3 :  experienced or realized through imaginative or sympathetic participation in the experience of another <a vicarious thrill>

  4. 4 :  occurring in an unexpected or abnormal part of the body instead of the usual one <vicarious menstruation manifested by bleeding from the nose>

vicariously adverb
vicariousness noun

Examples of vicarious in a sentence

  1. I am a vicarious eater, often preferring a description of a meal to eating it. I hoard the Wednesday food section of the New York Times, savoring it as my late-night reading, finishing always with the restaurant review. —Anne-Marie Slaughter, Commonweal, 14 June 2002

  2. Most people caged in the humdrum routines of modern life are eager for vicarious glimpses of pain, joy, and especially vitality. —Robert Jackall et al., Image Makers, 2000

  3. There is an immense sub-middle class with enough money to preserve it from rancorous envy of the rich, but not enough to preserve it from boredom; it needs vicarious compensations and manages to find them in the gossip columns. —Aldous Huxley, The Olive Tree, 1937

  4. To give himself the vicarious illusion of companionship, he fell back on letters. —Amy Lowell, John Keats, 1925

  5. By means of ferocious jokes … he could vent his hatred of pioneer life and all its conditions, those conditions that were thwarting his creative life; he could, in this vicarious manner, appease the artist in him … —Van Wyck Brooks, The Ordeal of Mark Twain, 1920

Did You Know?

If you act in someone’s stead, you take his or her place, at least temporarily. The oldest meaning of "vicarious," which was first recorded in 1637, is "serving in someone or something’s stead." The word vicarious derives from the Latin noun vicis, which means "change," "alternation," or "stead." "Vicis" is also the source of the English prefix vice- (as in "vice president"), meaning "one that takes the place of."

Origin of vicarious

Latin vicarius, from vicis change, alternation, stead — more at week

First Known Use: 1637

VICARIOUS Defined for Kids


adjective vi·car·i·ous \vī-ˈker-ē-əs\

Definition of vicarious for Students

  1. :  sharing in someone else's experiences through the use of imagination or sympathetic feelings <She got vicarious enjoyment from her sister's travels.>

vicariously adverb
vicariousness noun

Medical Dictionary


adjective vi·car·i·ous \vī-ˈker-ē-əs, və-, -ˈkar-\

Medical Definition of vicarious

  1. :  occurring in an unexpected or abnormal part of the body instead of the usual one <bleeding from the gums sometimes occurs in the absence of the normal discharge from the uterus in vicarious menstruation>

Law Dictionary


adjective vi·car·i·ous \vī-ˈkar-ē-əs\

Legal Definition of vicarious

  1. :  imposed on one person in place of another — see also vicarious liability at liability 2b

vicariously adverb
vicariousness noun

Learn More about vicarious

Seen and Heard

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expressing little or no emotion

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