vicarious

adjective
vi·​car·​i·​ous | \ vī-ˈker-ē-əs How to pronounce vicarious (audio) , və- \

Definition of vicarious

1 : experienced or realized through imaginative or sympathetic participation in the experience of another a vicarious thrill
2a : serving instead of someone or something else
b : that has been delegated vicarious authority
3 : performed or suffered by one person as a substitute for another or to the benefit or advantage of another : substitutionary a vicarious sacrifice
4 : occurring in an unexpected or abnormal part of the body instead of the usual one vicarious menstruation manifested by bleeding from the nose

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Other Words from vicarious

vicariously adverb
vicariousness noun

Vicarious Has Latin Roots

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."

Examples of vicarious in a Sentence

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 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 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 To give himself the vicarious illusion of companionship, he fell back on letters. — Amy Lowell, John Keats, 1925 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
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Recent Examples on the Web The novel can be read as a stirring meditation on grief or a vicarious confrontation with the joys and risks of motherhood. Patrick Iber, The New Republic, 5 Aug. 2021 Over the past 10 years, this program has helped create a common framework and language for addressing the impact of traumatic stress, vicarious trauma, and moral distress. Ken Yeager, STAT, 11 Sep. 2021 The mere possibility of estrangement provokes vicarious separation anxiety. Justin Ravitz, Town & Country, 13 Aug. 2021 Everyone was having vicarious fun through us because we were allowed to shed a light on the absurdity of this situation. New York Times, 21 July 2021 This vicarious imprisonment can continue long after her significant other comes home. Elizabeth Greenwood, The Atlantic, 27 July 2021 Movies stimulated the human appetite for imagery, narrative and vicarious emotion in a way that nothing had before. New York Times, 15 July 2021 More enjoyable by far was the vicarious thrill of experiencing an epic journey that had been flattened into the two-dimensional space of a screen, but not compressed — the whole journey was there, spooling out in real time. Joshua Hunt, New York Times, 14 July 2021 The novel can be read as a stirring meditation on grief or a vicarious confrontation with the joys and risks of motherhood. Kyle Chayka, The New Republic, 30 June 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'vicarious.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of vicarious

1637, in the meaning defined at sense 2a

History and Etymology for vicarious

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

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Time Traveler for vicarious

Time Traveler

The first known use of vicarious was in 1637

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Dictionary Entries Near vicarious

vicariism

vicarious

vicar of Bray

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Last Updated

28 Sep 2021

Cite this Entry

“Vicarious.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/vicarious. Accessed 28 Sep. 2021.

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More Definitions for vicarious

vicarious

adjective

English Language Learners Definition of vicarious

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

vicarious

adjective
vi·​car·​i·​ous | \ vī-ˈker-ē-əs How to pronounce vicarious (audio) \

Kids Definition of vicarious

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

Other Words from vicarious

vicariously adverb
vicariousness noun

vicarious

adjective
vi·​car·​i·​ous | \ vī-ˈker-ē-əs, və-, -ˈkar- How to pronounce vicarious (audio) \

Medical Definition of vicarious

: 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

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vicarious

adjective
vi·​car·​i·​ous | \ vī-ˈkar-ē-əs How to pronounce vicarious (audio) \

Legal Definition of vicarious

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

Other Words from vicarious

vicariously adverb
vicariousness noun

More from Merriam-Webster on vicarious

Nglish: Translation of vicarious for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of vicarious for Arabic Speakers

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