vicarious

adjective vi·car·i·ous \ vī-ˈker-ē-əs , və- \
Updated on: 20 Nov 2017

Definition of vicarious

1 : experienced or realized through imaginative or sympathetic participation in the experience of another
  • a vicarious thrill
2 a : 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

vicariously

adverb

vicariousness

noun

vicarious was our Word of the Day on 08/02/2010. Hear the podcast!

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 SlaughterCommonweal14 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 Makers2000
  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 HuxleyThe Olive Tree1937
  4. To give himself the vicarious illusion of companionship, he fell back on letters. —Amy LowellJohn Keats1925
  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 BrooksThe Ordeal of Mark Twain1920

Recent Examples of vicarious from the Web

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.

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."

Origin and Etymology of vicarious

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


VICARIOUS Defined for English Language Learners

vicarious

adjective

Definition of vicarious for English Language Learners

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


VICARIOUS Defined for Kids

vicarious

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

Definition of vicarious for Students

: 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

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

Law Dictionary

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 2b

vicariously

adverb

vicariousness

noun


Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up vicarious? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!

WORD OF THE DAY

to remove or wipe out

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Find the Cousins

  • a-large-tree-with-many-branches
  • Which pair shares a common word ancestor?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

TAKE THE QUIZ
Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!