pathetic fallacy


: the ascription of human traits or feelings to inanimate nature (as in cruel sea)

Examples of pathetic fallacy in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Munch treated nature not as a sentimental projection, a consolation, a pathetic fallacy, but as something animated, interconnected and potentially annihilating. Sebastian Smee, Washington Post, 22 June 2023 The pathetic fallacy — the almost irresistible tendency to project human feelings on inanimate things, like the weather — inclines us to remember the winters during periods of crisis — wars, economic depressions and pandemics — as particularly dark, no matter how clement the weather. Washington Post, 20 Dec. 2020 The skies are heavy with rain and pathetic fallacy; rarely does a film feel quite so frigid, so damp to the touch. Sophie Gilbert, The Atlantic, 1 Dec. 2022 The problem begins when that feeling is passed off as fact, in a kind of reverse pathetic fallacy, as if our emotions reflected the state of the planet. Kathryn Schulz, The New Yorker, 5 July 2021

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

Word History

First Known Use

1856, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of pathetic fallacy was in 1856

Dictionary Entries Near pathetic fallacy

Cite this Entry

“Pathetic fallacy.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Feb. 2024.

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