pa·​thet·​ic | \ pə-ˈthe-tik How to pronounce pathetic (audio) \

Definition of pathetic

1 : having a capacity to move one to either compassionate or contemptuous pity
2 : marked by sorrow or melancholy : sad
3 : pitifully inferior or inadequate the restaurant's pathetic service
4 : absurd, laughable a pathetic costume

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Other Words from pathetic

pathetical \ pə-​ˈthe-​ti-​kəl How to pronounce pathetical (audio) \ adjective
pathetically \ pə-​ˈthe-​ti-​k(ə-​)lē How to pronounce pathetically (audio) \ adverb

Choose the Right Synonym for pathetic

moving, impressive, poignant, affecting, touching, pathetic mean having the power to produce deep emotion. moving may apply to any strong emotional effect including thrilling, agitating, saddening, or calling forth pity or sympathy. a moving appeal for contributions impressive implies compelling attention, admiration, wonder, or conviction. an impressive list of achievements poignant applies to what keenly or sharply affects one's sensitivities. a poignant documentary on the homeless affecting is close to moving but most often suggests pathos. an affecting deathbed reunion touching implies arousing tenderness or compassion. the touching innocence in a child's eyes pathetic implies moving to pity or sometimes contempt. pathetic attempts to justify misconduct

Examples of pathetic in a Sentence

The spectacle seen in the theater of the news presented the American President as a failed suppliant instead of a conquering hero—an ailing and pathetic figure dismissed with the smile of pity and the gift of some sweet candies shaped as miniature sculptures of the President's two dogs. — Lewis H. Lapham, Harper's, March 1992 They were brave, and bravely she served them a pathetic meal of nothing but limitless bowls of little potatoes boiled in their jackets … — M. F. K. Fisher, With Bold Knife and Fork, 1969 Her face looked pale and extinguished, as if dimmed by the rich red of her dress. She struck Archer, of a sudden, as a pathetic and even pitiful figure. — Edith Wharton, The Age of Innocence, 1920 The blind, old dog was a pathetic sight. The team was pretty bad last year, but this year they're downright pathetic. The story he told was a pathetic attempt to cover up a lie. His car is a pathetic piece of junk.
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Recent Examples on the Web However, United States ratings will be substantially lower, as the EPA tagged the Turbo with a pathetic range estimate of 201 miles. Ezra Dyer, Car and Driver, "2020 Porsche Taycan 4S Has No Time for Your Winter Driving Worries," 6 Jan. 2020 Sean MitchellSanta Monica Off the grid The Rams are pathetic, from the head coach to the rawest rookie, this bunch is incapable of getting its act together. Los Angeles Times, "Letters: Look like the rare time where LeBron James made the wrong play," 18 Oct. 2019 These are some of the most compelling scenes of Richard Jewell; Eastwood seems fascinated by Jewell’s pathetic streak and his glaring desire to impress authority figures at any cost. David Sims, The Atlantic, "Richard Jewell Offers a Murky Picture of Heroism," 10 Dec. 2019 Nothing more than a pathetic witch hunt to overthrow what the PEOPLE voted for in 2016, plain and simple. Leada Gore |, al, "Articles of impeachment against Trump: ‘Witch hunt,’ ‘bogus,’ Alabama officials say," 10 Dec. 2019 Some have even stooped to pathetic attempts at maligning the witnesses, many of whom were appointed by this administration. Lynn Yaeger, Vogue, "The Week in Washington: “Was There a Quid Pro Quo? The Answer Is Yes.”," 24 Nov. 2019 Even if there was no grudge factor Saturday, the game was bound to be a blowout because the Tommies are very good and the Oles, while not a pathetic bunch week in and week out, struggle mightily against the top teams in the conference. Bob Sansevere, Twin Cities, "Bob Sansevere: It wasn’t 222-0, but St. Thomas still routs St. Olaf," 2 Nov. 2019 Who — or what — should get the primary blame for an offense averaging a pathetic 15.6 points per game? Joe Nguyen, The Denver Post, "Four Colorado players ranked among top 101 college basketball stars, report says," 29 Oct. 2019 But, after watching their pathetic performance last Sunday night in their Carson High stadium 80-percent filled with Steelers fans, the real question to ask is: Can the football team ever be a champion in L.A.? San Diego Union-Tribune, "Column: L.A. is one tough climb, and Bolts just can’t ascend there," 19 Oct. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'pathetic.' 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 pathetic

1591, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for pathetic

borrowed from Middle French & Late Latin; Middle French pathetique "provoking emotion," borrowed from Late Latin pathēticus "affecting the emotions," borrowed from Greek pathētikós "capable of feeling, emotional, receptive, passive," from pathētós "subject to suffering, liable to external influence" (verbal adjective from the base path- "experience, undergo, suffer") + -ikos -ic entry 1 — more at pathos

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Time Traveler for pathetic

Time Traveler

The first known use of pathetic was in 1591

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Statistics for pathetic

Last Updated

12 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Pathetic.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 19 January 2020.

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More Definitions for pathetic


How to pronounce pathetic (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of pathetic

: causing feelings of sadness and sympathy
informal + disapproving : very bad, poor, weak, etc.


pa·​thet·​ic | \ pə-ˈthe-tik How to pronounce pathetic (audio) \

Kids Definition of pathetic

: causing feelings of pity, tenderness, or sorrow “You talk about some pathetic, tortured-looking little faces.”— Christopher Paul Curtis, The Watsons

Other Words from pathetic

pathetically adverb

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Comments on pathetic

What made you want to look up pathetic? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to insert between existing elements

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