English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I am looking for a word which describes the emotion that one experiences on helping someone (friend, colleague, family, stranger). This helping out is not in the context of charity, but more of as helping out a social/societal equal. Is there any such word ?

share|improve this question
I'm not sure what the distinction is between helping a societal equal and "charity" since helping anyone is charitable. Maybe "gratifying" might suit your need? – Kristina Lopez May 1 '13 at 10:21
@KristinaLopez In the context of India, the word charity is specifically used for when helping out a lesser privileged individual. Gratify is not exactly what I was looking for, but it works for this specific usage. Thanks! (Question is still open, though) – AsheeshR May 1 '13 at 10:50
Empathy is the capacity to recognize emotions that are being experienced by another sentient or fictional being. ... Empathy has many different definitions. ... from caring for other people and having a desire to help them, ... [en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Empathy#Definition] [emphasis mine] – Kris May 1 '13 at 13:09
up vote 1 down vote accepted

I don't believe such a single word exists.

There are psychological theories that propose that all acts of altruism are ultimately self-interested, because of the feelings of satisfaction that arise. For instance, see wikipedia's article on psychological eogism or altruism. If there were a single word that meant this feeling, it would undoubtedly be invoked in such a context -- but it's not.

Since I've never heard of such a word, and can find no evidence of it existing in fields where it would naturally arise, I conclude that no such word exists in English.

share|improve this answer

An "empathic throbbing"! That'll do it.

share|improve this answer
Why the throbbing part? Empathy does it, doesn't it? :) – Kris May 1 '13 at 13:06
I'm searching for a term that describes the joy of fulfilment of an empathic urge. Or perhaps "surge". Or "an empathagasm". – David Aldridge May 1 '13 at 13:10
That's way more than what the OP asked, thanks for your bounteous empathy. – Kris May 1 '13 at 13:12
You're welcome. [throb] – David Aldridge May 1 '13 at 13:14
I thought "surge" was good. . .until I got to "empathagasm" which I LOVE! :-) – Kristina Lopez May 1 '13 at 17:55

There are many one-word expressions which describes the action of doing something unselfishly for others but as starwed affirmed hardly any in expressing the actual feeling in performing a good deed. However, there are ways round this limitation other than suggested.

Thoughtful Having or showing heed for the well-being or happiness of others and a propensity for anticipating their needs or wishes.

Selfless Having, exhibiting, or motivated by no concern for oneself

Considerate Showing kindly regard for the feelings or circumstances of others


Altruism: Pure altruism consists of sacrificing something for someone other than the self (e.g. sacrificing time, energy or possessions) with no expectation of any compensation or benefits, either direct, or indirect (e.g., receiving recognition for the act of giving).

Gratified: experiencing or manifesting pleasure

To feel a warm glow: a warm feeling, as of pleasure or well-being.

A warm fuzzy feeling: informal, full of love and kindness

A glow of happiness: e.g. "Anne felt a glow of happiness as she held her new baby."

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.