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I feel like there's a word that's buried in my head that's refusing to answer my calls, that means to "elicit empathy".

Any help would be appreciated. It might be a word that doesn't have the word "able" in it. Something like "poor", but without the connotation of being depraved. The best I can come up with is "relatable".

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I think the word you are after is reflexive, which according to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary means of, relating to, or capable of reflection (empathy?). – Bill Sep 7 '11 at 3:11

3 Answers 3

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Sympathetic is the first word that comes to mind: it can mean both feeling sympathy and causing sympathy. Here are the two relevant definitions from the Oxford English Dictionary:

Tending to elicit sympathy or to induce a feeling of rapport; also loosely, pleasant, likeable. (Example: 1900 Beerbohm in Sat. Rev. 10 Mar. 295/2 "The true Don Juan‥is‥not a ‘sympathetic’ part.")

Feeling or susceptible of sympathy; sharing or affected by the feelings of another or others; having a fellow-feeling; sympathizing, compassionate. (Example: 1867 Dickens Let. 6 Mar. (1999) XI. 327 "An unusually tender and sympathetic audience.")

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Same goes for empathetic and pathetic. Unfortunately all of these seem to call other meanings to mind first. – tdhsmith Sep 7 '11 at 3:25


piteous evoking or deserving pity; pathetic


pitiable evoking or deserving pity; lamentable

Definitions are from

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To me this has a negative connotation, and I'm trying to avoid that. Thank you. – joseph Sep 11 '11 at 19:23

I sort of like the term "identifiable". It fits well in my mind into the immediate meaning of the words, sympathy especially. It doesn't fit as well with empathy, however, which is probably what you want.

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