Is there a word or idiom to describe being offended for some one else?

For example, Person A makes an off-the-cuff remark that person B is 'trailer trash'. Person B knows that person A means it as a joke and isn't offended. Person C then gets offended at the remark and jumps to person B's defence even though the remark had nothing to do with them. Person A and B often make these remarks to each other.

  • 1
    Would the word vicarious work for you? It means to feel through the imagined experience of others. However, it doesn't apply only to offense.
    – deadrat
    Commented Mar 8, 2016 at 10:27
  • 3
    Person C was triggered even though the remark had nothing to do with them.
    – MonkeyZeus
    Commented Mar 8, 2016 at 14:35
  • 8
    I suppose "SJW" is right out. Commented Mar 9, 2016 at 13:19
  • 7
    good lord please don't use "triggered"
    – user428517
    Commented Mar 9, 2016 at 17:08
  • 2
    @sgroves my apologies for triggering you :)
    – MonkeyZeus
    Commented Mar 9, 2016 at 20:52

10 Answers 10


I would suggest vicariously offended.


performed, exercised, received, or suffered in place of another

I've found a few published uses of the phrase:

Use 1:

... making their living by being vicariously offended ...

Use 2:

There's a tendency in this country for people to be vicariously offended

  • +1 But, when we give examples on this site, we usually include quoted text and often a link to the source. Also your first link is broken.
    – bib
    Commented Mar 8, 2016 at 12:11
  • @bib The link worked for me but I've changed it to the index page of the book. Hopefully it works now but it won't take you directly to the quote. I included the excepts in either case.
    – Michael
    Commented Mar 8, 2016 at 12:19
  • 1
    To riff off of this excellent answer, what about sympathetically indignant?
    – BenL
    Commented Mar 9, 2016 at 22:55

A term I have seen used more recently is Professionally Offended or Professionally Outraged.

This is used to describe someone who takes offense at something on behalf of the supposedly offended party, usually on Twitter.

Phillip Schofield has described Twitter as "the land of the professionally outraged".


  • It's worth noting that this is a negative, potentially derogatory term. Commented Mar 8, 2016 at 14:17
  • 18
    Not a problem, since they're always offended by everything anyway. ;) Commented Mar 8, 2016 at 16:00
  • 1
    I'd say this better describes someone who is frequently in the state in question. It wouldn't be appropriate to describe a one off instance of offence on behalf of another as being "professionally offended".
    – smithkm
    Commented Mar 9, 2016 at 20:37

The idiom, take something personally, may fit in this scenario. Definition:

to interpret a remark or action as directed against oneself and be upset or offended by it, even if that was not the speaker's intention.


"I took it personally when he yelled at the class."

(The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English)

  • 3
    That is the opposite of what he's asking - taking something personally means exactly that you're offended on your own behalf, hence the "personal". This is explicitly not taking something personally.
    – neminem
    Commented Mar 9, 2016 at 0:37
  • 4
    @neminem -- To take something personally means to be offended by a remark that may not have been aimed at you. This fits the OP's scenario. Returning to the OP's original example, it would make sense for Person C to respond, "I take classist insults personally."
    – Kyle
    Commented Mar 9, 2016 at 0:49
  • No, to "take something personally" means to take something as directed to you personally and potentially be offended by it. It explicitly does not mean to take something as directed to someone else, which would be non-personally. Commented Mar 9, 2016 at 8:31
  • I think it could be interpreted both ways. Commented Mar 9, 2016 at 15:40
  • I've never heard of "taking something non-personally". Kyle's interpretation is closer to the truth in my view (native speaker).
    – RJFalconer
    Commented Mar 9, 2016 at 17:47

I think took umbrage would be a nice fit.


Person C took umbrage at person B's remark about person A.

  • 3
    Umbrage is synonymous with offense, so this does not answer the question.
    – Kyle
    Commented Mar 8, 2016 at 9:55
  • 1
    Nevertheless, it is still a valid idiom.
    – dreftymac
    Commented Mar 10, 2016 at 1:24
  • It's not specific to being offended on someone else's behalf. You can take umbrage at an insult to yourself, or you can take umbrage at a remark about someone else.
    – Barmar
    Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 1:47

Beside the question of real understanding from B (was it a joke or not from A...), we have to answer your first request : Empathy which means a comprehension & imaginatively entering or projecting into another person's feelingsh.


"on behalf of" is a good fit here.

"in the interest of" - Merriam-Webster


I’ve noticed the phenomenon of someone getting personally offended on behalf of someone else, who, in fact, has not been personally offended. Use in an article


Though not commonly used, this type of offense can be said to be a secondhand offense as explained in this article.


acting as the PC (political correctness) Police

of course this is meant as a slight to the third party - sort of a "mind your own business" response

  • This is too narrow—one can be offended by remarks about someone else even if they have nothing to do with political correctness.
    – Will
    Commented Mar 10, 2016 at 1:27

I would say that Person C is being overprotective.

having a tendency to protect someone, especially a child, excessively.


The idiom “more loyal than the king” was used by an author as a subtitle in a 2010 opinion piece criticizing a fellow Pakistani columnist for expressing misplaced concern on behalf of the United States over the possibility that leaks from within ISI (Pakistan’s powerful spy service) had revealed the name and identity of the then CIA station chief in Pakistan, in spite of the fact that the United States itself had not voiced such concerns through official channels.

In the first paragraph, the author of the piece states the idiom’s meaning as follows:

The idiom ‘More loyal than the king’ means someone who unnecessarily behaves more concerned about matters that concern someone else and ought not to have been of such concern to him. Generally it is spoken about sycophants or those subservient to the concerned, for their undue zeal and interest in matters owed directly to someone else.

(from ‘Pakistan’s Liberal Extremists: :More Loyal Than The King’ on ‘siasat[dot]pk)

Although the second sentence about how the idiom is generally targeted at unduly zealous sycophants would probably not apply in your context as presented, the idiom as defined in the first sentence would describe “Person C” in your scenario, with the United States representing your “Person B” and “sections of the US media” playing the role of your “Person A.”

Please note that variations of this idiom include “more royal/ist than the king” and “more papal/Catholic than the Pope,”

the latter being defined by Wikipedia (as an extension of its literal meanings) as:

Adhering more stringently to any norm (the norm of what is considered offensive, in your case) more strictly than is required by the arbiters of the norm (Person B, in your case);

with the former (as paraphrased from its use in ‘When the King Took Flight’ by Timothy TACKETT, via ‘Google Books’) meaning:
someone who “abides no compromise [when it comes to offensive language, in your case]” even when/if the king himself [Person B, in your case] does/would abide such compromises.

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