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apathy

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noun ap·a·thy \ˈa-pə-thē\

Simple Definition of apathy

  • : the feeling of not having much emotion or interest : an apathetic state

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of apathy

  1. 1 :  lack of feeling or emotion :  impassiveness

  2. 2 :  lack of interest or concern :  indifference

Examples of apathy in a sentence

  1. That's the danger of a teeming cast of … characters: they get jumbled in the viewer's mind, and … apathy ensues. Novels can afford a rich banquet of personalities; it's what readers sign up for. But ratiocination isn't welcome in modern movies, which prefer visceral impact over intellect. —Richard Corliss, Time, 20 Oct. 2008

  2. But short of such complete apathy, there are other neurological conditions in which the capacity for genuine emotion is compromised. One sees this in some forms of autism, in the “flat affect” of some schizophrenics. … But here, as with Harry, music can often break through, if only in a limited way or for a brief time, and release seemingly normal emotions. —Oliver Sacks, Musicophilia, 2008

  3. According to the polls, “the American people, as opposed to some of their leaders, seek no converts to their ideology.” And they are not “cultural imperialists.” Maybe not. But this reserve seems grounded less in humility (60 percent of Americans consider their culture “superior to others”) than in apathy. —Robert Wright, New York Times Book Review, 14 May 2006

  4. The result could well be further inequality of political information, with avid followers of politics becoming ever more knowledgeable while the rest of the public slips deeper into political apathy. —Martin P. Wattenberg, Atlantic, October 1998

  5. People have shown surprising apathy toward these important social problems.

  6. People have shown a surprising apathy toward these problems.



How apathy Differs from impassivity and indifference

Apathy, impassivity, and indifference all denote a lack of responsiveness to something that might normally excite interest or emotion. Apathy suggests a puzzling or deplorable inertness or lack of passion, as in “the problem of continued voter apathy.” Impassivity stresses the absence of any external sign of emotion in action or facial expression, as in “teachers frustrated by the impassivity of their students.” Indifference connotes a lack of interest in or concern about something, as in “the company’s apparent indifference to the needs of its employees.”

Did You Know?

There's no reason to be uncaring about the origins of apathy—though there is a clue to the word's beginnings in this sentence. Apathy was borrowed into English in the late 16th century from Greek apatheia, which itself comes from the adjective apathēs, meaning "without feeling." Apathēs, in turn, was formed by combining the negating prefix a- with pathos, meaning "emotion." Incidentally, if you've guessed that pathos is the source of the identically spelled noun in English (meaning either "an element in experience or in artistic representation evoking pity or compassion" or "an emotion of sympathetic pity"), you are correct. Pathos also gave us such words as antipathy, empathy, sympathy, pathetic, and even the archaic word pathematic ("emotional").

Origin of apathy

Greek apatheia, from apathēs without feeling, from a- + pathos emotion — more at pathos


First Known Use: 1594


APATHY Defined for Kids

apathy

play
noun ap·a·thy \ˈa-pə-thē\

Definition of apathy for Students

  1. :  lack of feeling or of interest :  indifference <The trip was canceled because of student apathy.>




Medical Dictionary

apathy

play
noun ap·a·thy \ˈap-ə-thē\

Medical Definition of apathy

plural apathies

  1. :  lack of feeling or emotion





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