ha·​mar·​tia | \ ˌhä-ˌmär-ˈtē-ə How to pronounce hamartia (audio) \

Definition of hamartia

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Hamartia arose from the Greek verb hamartanein, meaning "to miss the mark" or "to err." Aristotle introduced the term in the Poetics to describe the error of judgment which ultimately brings about the tragic hero's downfall. As you can imagine, the word is most often found in literary criticism. However, media writers occasionally employ the word when discussing the unexplainable misfortune or missteps of celebrities regarded as immortal gods and goddesses before being felled by their own shortcomings. For example, a writer for The New Republic in an April 2018 review of Chappaquiddick (a movie about U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy) comments that "Kennedy's ruthlessness and ambition, which are treated as the family's hamartia in Chappaquiddick, are swept under the rug of his compassion."

Examples of hamartia in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Kennedy’s ruthlessness and ambition—which are treated as the Kennedys’ hamartia in Chappaquiddick—are swept under the rug of his compassion. Alex Shephard, The New Republic, 30 Apr. 2018

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

First Known Use of hamartia

1913, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for hamartia

Greek, from hamartanein to miss the mark, err

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The first known use of hamartia was in 1913

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Cite this Entry

“Hamartia.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hamartia. Accessed 19 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for hamartia


ha·​mar·​tia | \ ˌhäm-ˌär-ˈtē-ə also hə-ˈmär-sh(ē-)ə \

Medical Definition of hamartia

More from Merriam-Webster on hamartia

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Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about hamartia


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