em-puh-thet-ik  blɛnts


Definition: The visceral reaction of receiving a gesture of generosity that is fraught with environmental or social consequences, which the recipient may be more sensitive to than the giver.

The experience of internal conflict that manifests as a suppressed external reaction when a person on the receiving end of an act of hospitality, kindness or generosity experiences both empathy with the person extending the hospitality while simultaneously experiencing a blench (a sudden wince) reaction because the act is actually harmful to the environment.

The experience of empathy during an empathetic blench may include empathy with the giver but also with the larger social group or ecosystem impacted by the act or gift.


1. The cashier smiled endlessly as she cushioned the plastic water bottle with three plastic bags, and all the customer could feel was an empathic blench.

2. I felt the oncoming of an empathic blench as I peeled back the multitude of bleached tissue papers to reveal the small plastic birthday gift.

3. Though the dinner party was well attended and joyous on all fronts, Sarah felt an empathic blench as she ate off of the single-use, multi-course plastic plates and wanna-be compostable flatware.

Origin: Nicole Markoff, Participants of The Bureau of Linguistical Reality Field Study #2, Heidi Quante, Alicia Escott, United States, March 2015. Derived from empathetic (of, relating to, or characterized by empathy – the psychological identification with the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of others.  Greek empatheia (from em- ‘in’ + pathos ‘feeling’)  + blench (to make a sudden flinching movement out of pain. Old English blencan “deceive, cheat,” from Proto-Germanic *blenk- “to shine, dazzle, blind,” from PIE root *bhel- (1) “to shine, flash, burn”. Sense of “move suddenly, wince, dodge” is from c.1300)



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