I'm looking for a word for someone who tends to assume the emotional state of people around them, not necessarily by will. In most definitions that I can find online, being an empath usually implies a psychic ability to attain the emotional state of someone else. I'm looking for a similar word that does not carry connotations of supernatural power, but rather a propensity for taking on the overt emotional atmosphere around them.

The word can be technical, but it doesn't have to be.

Example uses:

Even though I was aware of the tension in the room, I stayed calm. Since Aaron is a(n) ___, he couldn't help but get upset.

I could tell Katy is a(n) ___ because her mood lit up when we joined the celebration.

  • Not completely satisfiying, but joiner is the closest thing I can come up with. ( informal: a person who readily joins groups or campaigns. OD) I've used it exactly as you describe, for want of anything better.
    – Phil Sweet
    Apr 18, 2017 at 3:11
  • mimic would be for physical things, parrot would be saying things, chameleon would be more about appearance but also could be used more generally for "blending in".. there is something else close to chameleon but more for emotion.. can't wait till someone gets it!
    – Tom22
    Apr 18, 2017 at 5:00
  • In 2000's slang "emo" often meant a rock subculture but could also mean, (from wiktionary): emo (comparative more emo, superlative most emo) (often pejorative) Emotional; sensitive. (informal, often pejorative) Depressed. Associated with youth subcultures embodying emotional sensitivity.
    – Tom22
    Apr 18, 2017 at 5:15
  • Do you mean 'assume there emotions' in the sense that they make an assumption/form a belief about other's emotions, or that they acquire these emotions/become similar to these other people?
    – Mitch
    May 22, 2020 at 12:16

6 Answers 6


Emotional sponge is more colloquial than empath

For lack of a better source:

The Empath: Emotional Sponge Empaths are highly sensitive, loving, and supportive. They are finely tuned instruments when it comes to emotions and tend to feel everything, sometimes to an extreme. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/emotional-freedom/201102/what-is-your-emotional-type


I don't know if there's a noun form, but the adjective empathetic describes a person like this. From Oxford Living Dictionaries:

Showing an ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

So your sentences can be rewritten slightly to use this.

Even though I was aware of the tension in the room, I stayed calm. Since Aaron is empathetic, he couldn't help but get upset.

I could tell Katy is empathetic because her mood lit up when we joined the celebration.


I would call that person an empath:

empath n
One who is highly sensitive to the feelings of others and has a high capacity for empathy: "He was also something of an empath, intuitively alert, it would seem, to what was going on behind those faces" (Roberta Smith).
American Heritage Dictionary, TFD Online

This feels like a rather recent coinage, but it follows the pattern laid out by words like sociopath, etc.


I'm signing up just to chime in because it's been bothering me for a while and I think I've found a very related concept called "emotional contagion" that describes a lot of what I think we're getting at, but not so much the willful action of using it functionally. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emotional_contagion

The psychological concept of "containment" keeps ringing in my head as well, and I think that gets at more of the functional aspect of what you're describing. Containing, holding an emotion for others, and then expressing it almost on behalf of them. Embodying/taking on the general emotion of a group and reflecting it in a slightly more exaggerated way has the effect of lowering the overall anxiety in the room, like the act of voicing it makes others feel that they are not unheard or alone. Certain personality types are prone to this, I would avoid the term "empath" entirely to avoid the whole illusion of personality types. It's a defense, it's an impulse to quell anxiety that has a benefit to others and you do it because of something weird in your history.


As a borderline personality disorder, this is known as the "Chameleon Effect", and the sufferers are "Chameleons" https://sarahmyles.net/2013/07/22/borderline-personality-disorder-and-the-chameleon-effect/

On a less formal level, the person can be simply described as insecure, or a mimic.


The word that you are looking for is eidetiker, although rather than a susceptibility, it may suggest a quality that is more akin to artistic imagination, or an ability that entails being able to assume the emotional point of view of others.

  • 1
    This would be improved by including a authoritative dictionary definition for the word. May 22, 2020 at 10:05

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