noun pa·thos \ˈpā-ˌthäs, -ˌthȯs, -ˌthōs also ˈpa-\

Definition of pathos

  1. 1 :  an element in experience or in artistic representation evoking pity or compassion

  2. 2 :  an emotion of sympathetic pity

pathos was our Word of the Day on 10/05/2011. Hear the podcast!

Examples of pathos in a sentence

  1. There is a pathos to the deflated certainties that left the Washington lawyer Leonard Garment weeping, inconsolable, outside the Senate chamber as the debate was ended. —Garry Wills, New York Times Book Review, 10 Sept. 1989

  2. The struggle back to solvency was arduous, and the stubborn determination and reserves of strength that it called forth from him in his mid-forties made him all at once a figure of considerable pathos and heroism in my eyes, a cross of a kind between Captain Ahab and Willy Loman. —Philip Roth, Reading Myself and Others, (1961) 1975

  3. Many schools at the end of the Depression were poor, but the threadbare nature of Christchurch was almost Dickensian in its pathos. —William Styron, This Quiet Dust and Other Writings, (1953) 1982

  4. Our knowledge of his tragic end adds an element of pathos to the story of his early success.

Recent Examples of pathos from the web

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Did You Know?

The Greek word pathos means "suffering," "experience," or "emotion." It was borrowed into English in the 16th century, and for English speakers, the term usually refers to the emotions produced by tragedy or a depiction of tragedy. "Pathos" has quite a few kin in English. A "pathetic" sight moves us to pity. "Empathy" is the ability to feel the emotions of another. Though "pathology" is not literally "the study of suffering," it is "the study of diseases." You can probably guess at more relatives of "pathos." "Sympathy," "apathetic," "antipathy," "sociopath," and "psychopath" are a few.

Origin and Etymology of pathos

Greek, suffering, experience, emotion, from paschein (aorist pathein) to experience, suffer; perhaps akin to Lithuanian kęsti to suffer

First Known Use: 1591

PATHOS Defined for English Language Learners


noun pa·thos \ˈpā-ˌthäs, -ˌthȯs, -ˌthōs also ˈpa-\

Definition of pathos for English Language Learners

  • : a quality that causes people to feel sympathy and sadness

Seen and Heard

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


feeling or affected by lethargy

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