vicarious

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

Dorothy’s only vague pleasures are the vicarious thrills of her libertine friend Estelle and Estelle’s soap opera love affairs. Vox Staff, Vox, "The most thought-provoking books the Vox staff read in 2018," 21 Dec. 2018 In a series of posts, the pair gave us a vicarious tour through the iconic city. Emily Wang, Glamour, "Serena Williams Was in the Mood For Italian, So Her Husband Flew Her To Italy," 23 July 2018 Here, then, are a few thoughts on finessing this vexing problem: Go vicarious. Joe Queenan, WSJ, "It’s Time to Kick the Bucket List," 20 July 2018 Intangible qualities like a sense of gentle empathy, candid humor, and tasteful camerawork mark the invisible line between trauma fuel and a safe vicarious taste of early adulthood. Charles Bramesco, Vox, "Eighth Grade’s R rating deters actual 8th graders from seeing it. What a shame.," 18 July 2018 But the show was just as much a fashion romance, an onscreen paper-doll fantasy, inviting viewers to take vicarious pleasure in the characters’ elaborate dress-up games as styled by costumer Patricia Field. Rhonda Garelick, The Cut, "Carrie Bradshaw’s Tutu Paradox," 1 June 2018 This phenomenon, known as vicarious trauma, is well known to therapists, first responders, social service workers, journalists, and other professionals whose jobs require empathically interacting with trauma survivors or handling uncensored media. Alexander Tsai, STAT, "When police officers kill unarmed blacks, it affects blacks’ mental health across the country," 27 June 2018 To see this woman—this nearly unassailable force of nature—be wronged so deeply was jarring, a vicarious blow that caused visceral pain for countless fans. Hannah Giorgis, The Atlantic, "Do Beyoncé Fans Have to Forgive Jay-Z?," 18 June 2018 Theatergoers are rewarded for their vicarious pains not with a fairy tale ending but with a clarification of what redeems us as human beings. Charles Mcnulty, latimes.com, "The women of 'A Thousand Splendid Suns,' casting a spell onstage," 5 June 2018

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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Last Updated

15 Jan 2019

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Time Traveler for vicarious

The first known use of vicarious was in 1637

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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 \

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- \

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 \

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

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More from Merriam-Webster on vicarious

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with vicarious

Spanish Central: Translation of vicarious

Nglish: Translation of vicarious for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of vicarious for Arabic Speakers

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