pathos

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

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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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.

Examples of pathos in a Sentence

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 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 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 Our knowledge of his tragic end adds an element of pathos to the story of his early success.
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Recent Examples on the Web

His pre-World War I photographs of Vienna, when put on display in the 1930s, took on a new pathos as World War II approached. J.s. Marcus, WSJ, "Faces of Old Vienna," 12 July 2018 There is pathos aplenty as Charles Elliot, the British superintendent of trade in Canton, falls apart under Chinese pressure in 1839, eventually beginning to doubt his own sanity. Ian Morris, New York Times, "The Opium War and the Humiliation of China," 2 July 2018 Credit for this goes in no small measure to the show's phenomenal leads, Ricamora, whose sumptuous voice could charm hooligans at a Trump rally, and Louis, whose portrayal of Hillary balances fearless comedy with tender pathos. Charles Mcnulty, latimes.com, "'Soft Power' at the Ahmanson: Big, bold, overly complicated and spectacularly unique," 17 May 2018 But unlike most films of that genre, Mary Page Marlowe is concerned with finding the pathos, the melancholy beauty in a life that in most respects is unremarkable. David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Mary Page Marlowe': Theater Review," 13 July 2018 Get our daily newsletter Ms Alneami’s pictures also capture the pathos, humour and defiance of women riding bumper-cars at funfairs, the closest most could come to driving real cars. The Economist, "A wild rideRadical reforms in Saudi Arabia are changing the Gulf and the Arab world," 21 June 2018 Director KJ Sanchez skillfully guides the rich production, alternating anarchic pageantry with nuanced pathos. Marcus Crowder, SFChronicle.com, "Former ‘Sesame Street’ star makes Cal Shakes’ ‘Quixote Nuevo’ an instant classic," 18 June 2018 Along with the politics and pathos, threads of whimsy, humor and hope wove through the proceedings on the heels of the hashtag #TonyDreaming. Jessica Gelt, latimes.com, "De Niro denounces Trump, Stoneman Douglas students bring everyone to tears and 'SpongeBob SquarePants' proves it really is a musical — this year's Tonys had it all," 11 June 2018 Farmiga somehow manages to inject some real-world pathos into her dysfunctional cartoon of a character, especially in a sequence involving her ex-husband, a Sausalito crumbum played with appropriate oiliness by Bobby Cannavale. Peter Rainer, The Christian Science Monitor, "The cast outshines the material in road trip movie ‘Boundaries’," 22 June 2018

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.

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First Known Use of pathos

1591, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for 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 bind entry 1).

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Last Updated

4 Nov 2018

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Time Traveler for pathos

The first known use of pathos was in 1591

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More Definitions for pathos

pathos

noun

English Language Learners Definition of pathos

: a quality that causes people to feel sympathy and sadness

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