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

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."

Examples of phatic in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Those greetings are but a few examples of phatic language from Early Modern English (1500 to 1699). Bryan A. Garner, National Review, 10 June 2021 Then the rest of the interchange floods with phatic channel-management. Ian Bogost, The Atlantic, 29 Mar. 2021

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

First Known Use of phatic

1922, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for phatic

Greek phatos, verbal of phanai to speak

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Cite this Entry

“Phatic.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 Jan. 2022.

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