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

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

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

PATHOS Defined for English Language Learners



Definition of pathos for English Language Learners

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

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an incorrigible rascal

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