Trend Watch

Paul Ryan Called for Empathy, and Dictionary Lookups for the Word Increased

An increase in empathy—or, at least, an increase in people wondering what 'empathy' means


Look-ups for empathy spiked sharply last night and this morning after Paul Ryan used the word in a speech on the second evening of the Republican National Convention. “Real social progress is always a widening of the circle of concern and protection," Ryan stated. "It's respect and empathy overtaking blindness and indifference."

Paul Ryan's call for "respect and empathy" sent some people to their dictionaries.

The word is somewhat more recent than many similar words, having entered the English language in the middle of the 19th century; sympathy, by comparison, has been in use since the middle of the 16th century. The earliest sense of the word had to do with projecting a state of mind onto an object and ascribing to that object one’s own feelings or state of mind.

It was not until the 20th century the word entered the realm of psychology and came to assume the meaning that we commonly ascribe to it today: “the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another.”

Trend Watch tracks popular lookups to see what people are talking about. You can always see all Trend Watch articles here.



Seen and Heard