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

Keep scrolling for more

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.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web

That was a really pathetic attempt to sell your previous book. Isaac Chotiner, The New Yorker, "Ross Douthat Describes the Crisis of the Conservative Coalition," 7 June 2019 In the history of MLS, no team has ever started the season worse than Colorado’s pathetic form through 11 games, when the Rapids lost nine times and managed so much as a tie only twice. Mark Kiszla, The Denver Post, "Kiszla: How the Rapids ended a soccer nightmare by finding treasure in their own backyard," 5 June 2019 Sarah Sanders saying this is pathetic and reckless, selfish, and, quote, this coward should do the right thing and resign. Fox News, "'Senior official' pens anonymous op-ed blasting Trump," 6 Sep. 2018 The men here — including a post-The OC Adam Brody and a pre-Parks and Recreation Chris Pratt — are mostly just bodies to be disposed of and are either entirely unthreatening or simultaneously threatening and pathetic. Constance Grady, Vox, "How Jennifer’s Body went from a flop in 2009 to a feminist cult classic today," 31 Oct. 2018 Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer has hit out at his squad and branded his side's performances in the World Cup as 'pathetic' after Die Mannschaft were eliminated from the tournament in the group stages., "Manuel Neuer Brands Germany Squad 'Pathetic' After World Cup Group Stage Humiliation," 28 June 2018 The number alone is pathetic, and women of color are hit even harder. Glamour, "10 Times Women Fought for Equal Pay—And Got Theirs," 19 Mar. 2019 Last year, Google fired engineer James Damore for writing an internal memo that the CEO, with pathetic dishonesty, characterized as bigoted. Michael Barone, National Review, "What’s Oozing Out of Campuses Is Polluting Society," 16 Feb. 2018 What a pathetic way of living this administration has normalized. Jill Filipovic, Cosmopolitan, "The Defense of Alleged Abuser Rob Porter Shows Exactly What a Woman's Word Is Worth in This Country," 8 Feb. 2018

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about pathetic

Statistics for pathetic

Last Updated

15 Jun 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for pathetic

The first known use of pathetic was in 1591

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for pathetic



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

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on pathetic

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with pathetic

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for pathetic

Spanish Central: Translation of pathetic

Nglish: Translation of pathetic for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of pathetic for Arabic Speakers

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).


incapable of being surmounted or overcome

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Finance Words Quiz

  • a-piggy-bank
  • The etymology of mortgage is related most closely to which two words?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!