ba·​thos ˈbā-ˌthäs How to pronounce bathos (audio)
: the sudden appearance of the commonplace in otherwise elevated matter or style
: exceptional commonplaceness : triteness
: insincere or overdone pathos : sentimentalism

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 His delicacy with the text lifts his scenes above the surrounding bathos like a kite. Helen Shaw, The New Yorker, 19 June 2023 This is daring dramaturgy, requiring the utmost in tonal control to keep it from tipping into righteous bathos. Jesse Green, New York Times, 22 Aug. 2021 Arbus captured expressions of exuberance, delight in companionship, parental tenderness, self-love, piercing intelligence, ironic fatigue, suavity, bathos, aggression, perplexity and various expressions of curiosity about (or boredom with) the process of having one’s photograph taken. Sebastian Smee, Washington Post, 26 Sep. 2022 Unlike the latter, our French super-doctor ends his life in bathos. Tunku Varadarajan, WSJ, 16 May 2022 But Ostermeier’s show turns the script from pathos to bathos. Helen Shaw, Vulture, 22 May 2022 There’s a fair amount of heavy lifting in the book’s philosophical debates, but Lavery banishes earnestness thanks to her drily witty use of bathos. David Benedict, Variety, 8 Dec. 2021 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, 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, 12 Aug. 2020 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'bathos.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


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.

First Known Use

1727, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of bathos was in 1727

Dictionary Entries Near bathos

Cite this Entry

“Bathos.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 7 Dec. 2023.

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