AskDefine | Define vicarious

Dictionary Definition

vicarious adj
1 experienced at secondhand; "read about mountain climbing and felt vicarious excitement"
2 occurring in an abnormal part of the body instead of the usual site involved in that function; "vicarious menstruation"
3 suffered or done by one person as a substitute for another; "vicarious atonement"

User Contributed Dictionary



From vicārius "vicarious, substituted"



  1. Experienced or gained by the loss or to the consequence of another, such as through watching or reading.
    People experience vicarious pleasures through watching the news.
  2. Done on behalf of others
    The concept of vicarious atonement, that one person can atone for the sins of another, is found in many religions.

Derived terms


  • 1886 — Robert Louis Stevenson, Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde ch 10
    The pleasures which I made haste to seek in my disguise were, as I have said, undignified; I would scarce use a harder term. But in the hands of Edward Hyde, they soon began to turn toward the monstrous. When I would come back from these excursions, I was often plunged into a kind of wonder at my vicarious depravity.
  • 1900 — James Frazer, The Golden Bough ch 26
    As time went on, the cruel custom was so far mitigated that a ram was accepted as a vicarious sacrifice in room of the royal victim
  • 1920 — H. Rider Haggard, The Blue Curtains ch III
    In these, however, he had not much time to indulge, for a footman, still decked in the trappings of vicarious grief, opened the door with the most startling promptitude, and he was ushered upstairs into a small but richly furnished room.


Experienced or gained by the loss or to the consequence of another
Done on behalf of others

Extensive Definition

Vicarious may refer to:

See also

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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