ba·​thos | \ ˈbā-ˌthäs How to pronounce bathos (audio) \

Definition of bathos

1a : the sudden appearance of the commonplace in otherwise elevated matter or style
2 : exceptional commonplaceness : triteness
3 : insincere or overdone pathos : sentimentalism

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Examples of bathos in a Sentence

The serious message of the film is ruined by the bathos of its ridiculous ending. a novel that wallows in bathos
Recent Examples on the Web Much of the show unfolds this way, in a wry flurry of montage that brings pathos, and bathos, to Wilson’s narration. Dan Piepenbring, The New Yorker, "HBO’s “How To with John Wilson” Captures the Weird, Wondrous New York City That’s Never on TV," 25 Nov. 2020 Most importantly, the film never succumbs to the bathos that might have been expected from its melodramatic plot elements (although a climactic scene set in a cemetery comes awfully close). Frank Scheck, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Pearl': Film Review," 12 Aug. 2020 The foremost risk in such a setup is bathos: the poor kid! John Domini, Dallas News, "An Italian teenager meets the family she didn't know existed in 'A Girl Returned'," 1 July 2019 The bathos of the latter tends to casts an absurd light on the former. Hermione Hoby, The New Yorker, "What Does It Mean to Be a “Real” Writer?," 3 July 2019 The foremost risk in such a setup is bathos: the poor kid! John Domini, Dallas News, "An Italian teenager meets the family she didn't know existed in 'A Girl Returned'," 1 July 2019 The foremost risk in such a setup is bathos: the poor kid! John Domini, Washington Post, "A teenager meets the family she didn’t know existed in ‘A Girl Returned’," 13 June 2019 And Link, to her credit and with great help from the honest Zacharias, avoids the trap of hyperventilation or bathos, into which movies based on Tolstoy often sink. Chris Jones,, "It's Monday. It's Rogers Park. And thanks to the strength of Chicago theater, it's time for 'Anna Karenina'," 2 Mar. 2018 Nevertheless, the reader is left wanting because the story lacks the pathos and bathos that great comic fiction requires. Min Jin Lee, New York Times, "Was It the Perfect Crime or a Paranoid Fantasy?," 15 Feb. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'bathos.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of bathos

1727, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for bathos

borrowed from Greek báthos "depth," neuter s-stem derivative of bathýs "deep" — more at bathy-

Note: The English use of the word bathos allegedly originates with the satirical essay "ΠΕΡΙ ΒΑΘΟΥΣ / or Of the Art of Sinking in Poetry / Written in the Year 1727" (first published March, 1728), by "Martinus Scriblerus," a fictional literary hack created by Alexander Pope, John Arbuthnot, Jonathan Swift, and other members of the Scriblerus Club; authorship of the essay is usually ascribed to Pope. The Greek title (Perì báthous, "Concerning depth") echoes the title of the classical treatise "On the Sublime" (Perì hýpsous, literally, "Concerning height"), dated to the 1st century A.D. and formerly attributed to the 3rd century rhetorician Cassius Longinus. In Pope's essay, bathos—which, in the inverted perspective of the hack author, is a favorable quality—is used broadly to characterize literary passages deemed coarse or pedestrian for a genre such as epic poetry. The idea that bathos involves a shift from elevated to low is never stated explicitly—rather, a genre such as epic is by its nature elevated and the poetic execution (ironically praised by Scriblerus) is of low quality.

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Cite this Entry

“Bathos.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 4 Mar. 2021.

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More Definitions for bathos



English Language Learners Definition of bathos

formal : the sudden appearance of a silly idea or event in a book, movie discussion, etc., that is serious in tone

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