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I’m looking for ideally a single word that describes with positive connotation a highly empathetic and witty person — the type of person who’s a fantastic conversationalist as a result of these qualities. What describes that person who can masterfully pick up on the subtle nuances of a conversation, and then respond appropriately, empathetically, quickly, and keenly?

After scraping the thesaurus around empathetic, witty, smooth, sharp, sagacious, etc I could not come up with anything that fit the association well.

Empathetic didn’t imply the good-to-talk-to, conversational properties. Witty in the context of conversation brings up thoughts of interesting facts, word puns, and trite remarks without much association with one in tune with the nuances of how the other person is thinking.

As an aside, I feel like this word would be extremely useful to me. Anyone who exemplified in the qualities that this word is trying to convey would be an interesting person to talk to.

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Seems to me that there isn't such a word because "empathetic" and "witty" don't necessarily go together. You seem to asking for a word to describe an empathetic Oscar Wilde or a witty Mr Rogers. A vaguer term, "charming", might work. –  user21497 Nov 25 '12 at 7:54
    
Evan, it would help tremendously if you'd tell us if you had someone specific in mind. –  Mr Lister Nov 25 '12 at 8:01
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Write an essay, in ten words or fewer ... –  Edwin Ashworth Nov 25 '12 at 8:25
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7 Answers 7

up vote 4 down vote accepted

You are looking for many qualities at the same time that have nothing to do with each other. I suggest simply using conversationalist for someone good at talking to others.

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I immediately thought of this, and of the line in Gangs of New York..."We may not be conversationalists, but we're deep thinkers." –  tylerharms Nov 25 '12 at 12:52
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I would call this person simply a wit. I think the term includes all of the things you mentioned.

The Wordnik entry for wit includes these definitions (bold emphasis mine):

n. The natural ability to perceive and understand; intelligence.

n. Keenness and quickness of perception or discernment; ingenuity. Often used in the plural: living by one's wits.

n. Sound mental faculties; sanity: scared out of my wits.

n. The ability to perceive and express in an ingeniously humorous manner the relationship between seemingly incongruous or disparate things.

n. One noted for this ability, especially one skilled in repartee.

n. A person of exceptional intelligence.

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The closest word I can think of is warm, which can be used as an adjective to express many emotions close to the ones you mention, particularly empathy. Here is a complilation of meanings taken from three different dictionaries:

warm (adj.) 2 kind and friendly in a way that makes other people feel comfortable : a warm smile 3 marked by strong feeling; ardent 3b marked by excitement, disagreement, or anger : a warm argument 4 marked by or readily showing affection, gratitude, cordiality, or sympathy 5 marked by enthusiasm; ardent: warm support 6 characterized by liveliness, excitement, or disagreement; heated: a warm debate 7 marked by or revealing friendliness or sincerity; cordial: warm greetings

One potential problem you'd have is that a reader or listener might interpret the single word to mean cordial, or empathetic, or strongly emotional, or confrontational in conversation, but not necessarily all of those at once, which is what you want. So, you'd have to be sure that the surrounding context made it abundantly clear than any and all of those nuances of the word could be applied in your single usage.

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Personable? Wit is implied, perhaps.

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'Gregarious' and 'convivial' both describe warmly sociable types. I think this is the closest you're gonna get in English, although they don't imply wit as precisely as you want.

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For some reason this makes me think of charisma, though looking it up it seems it has a far more cynical connotation than how I perceive it.

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Charming? I think it is usually used positively. –  Phil H Jan 30 at 9:31
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A couple of comments have suggested it. I think it deserves it's own answer:

That person has "charm" or is "charming" or maybe even is "a charmer".

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