phat·​ic | \ ˈfa-tik How to pronounce phatic (audio) \

Definition of phatic

: of, relating to, or being speech used for social or emotive purposes rather than for communicating information

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from phatic

phatically \ ˈfa-​ti-​k(ə-​)lē How to pronounce phatic (audio) \ adverb

Phatic Has Greek Roots

Phatic was coined in the early 20th century by people who apparently wanted to label a particular quirk of human communication-the tendency to use certain rote phrases (such as the standard greeting "how are you?") merely to establish a social connection without sharing any actual information. It probably won't surprise you, then, to learn that phatic derives from the Greek phatos, a form of the verb phanai, meaning "to speak." Other descendants of "phanai" in English include "apophasis" ("the raising of an issue by claiming not to mention it"), "euphemism," "prophet," and the combining suffix -phasia (used to denote a speech disorder). You may also have spotted a similarity to "emphatic," but that turns out to be purely coincidence; "emphatic" traces back to a different Greek verb which means "to show."

First Known Use of phatic

1922, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for phatic

Greek phatos, verbal of phanai to speak

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about phatic

Time Traveler for phatic

Time Traveler

The first known use of phatic was in 1922

See more words from the same year

Listen to Our Podcast about phatic

Statistics for phatic

Cite this Entry

“Phatic.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Jan. 2021.

Comments on phatic

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


Test Your Vocabulary

Words of Snow and Ice Quiz

  • image1037863653
  • Which of the following refers to thin, bending ice, or to the act of running over such ice?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.


Anagram puzzles meet word search.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!