apathy was our Word of the Day on 04/29/2009. Hear the podcast!
Examples of apathy in a sentence
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
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
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
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
People have shown surprising apathy toward these important social problems.
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 and Etymology of apathy
Greek apatheia, from apathēs without feeling, from a- + pathos emotion — more at pathos
First Known Use: 1594
APATHY Defined for English Language Learners
Definition of apathy for English Language Learners
: the feeling of not having much emotion or interest : an apathetic state
APATHY Defined for Kids
Medical Definition of apathy
: lack of feeling or emotion
Seen and Heard
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