pathos

noun pa·thos \ ˈpā-ˌthäs , -ˌthȯs , -ˌthōs also ˈpa- \
Updated on: 17 Nov 2017

Definition of pathos

1 : an element in experience or in artistic representation evoking pity or compassion
2 : an emotion of sympathetic pity

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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 WillsNew York Times Book Review10 Sept. 1989
  2. Many schools at the end of the Depression were poor, but the threadbare nature of Christchurch was almost Dickensian in its pathos. —William StyronThis Quiet Dust and Other Writings(1953) 1982
  3. 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 RothReading Myself and Others(1961) 1975
  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

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

pathos Entered English in the 1500s

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

borrowed from Greek páthos, noun derivative of a verbal base path- "experience, undergo, suffer" (present páschō, páschein), going back to *p(h)nth-, zero ablaut grade of a base seen also in pénthos "grief, sorrow," of uncertain origin
Note: The Greek verb has been compared with Lithuanian kentù, kę͂sti "to undergo, suffer" (assuming that t for d is secondary) and Old Irish césaid "(s/he) suffers, endures" (< *kwendh-s-?), though this would require Indo-European *kwendh-, with a normally unacceptable combination of voiceless stop and voiced aspirated stop in a single root. Alternatively, Greek path-, penth- has been explained as an idiosyncratic semantic development of Indo-European *bhendh- "bind" ("be bound" > "suffer"?) (see 1bind).


PATHOS Defined for English Language Learners

pathos

noun

Definition of pathos for English Language Learners

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



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