phleg·​mat·​ic | \ fleg-ˈma-tik How to pronounce phlegmatic (audio) \

Definition of phlegmatic

1 : resembling, consisting of, or producing the humor phlegm
2 : having or showing a slow and stolid temperament

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Other Words from phlegmatic

phlegmatically \ fleg-​ˈma-​ti-​k(ə-​)lē How to pronounce phlegmatic (audio) \ adverb

Choose the Right Synonym for phlegmatic

impassive, stoic, phlegmatic, apathetic, stolid mean unresponsive to something that might normally excite interest or emotion. impassive stresses the absence of any external sign of emotion in action or facial expression. met the news with an impassive look stoic implies an apparent indifference to pleasure or especially to pain often as a matter of principle or self-discipline. was resolutely stoic even in adversity phlegmatic implies a temperament or constitution hard to arouse. a phlegmatic man unmoved by tears apathetic may imply a puzzling or deplorable indifference or inertness. charitable appeals met an apathetic response stolid implies a habitual absence of interest, responsiveness, or curiosity. stolid workers wedded to routine

Phlegm and the Four Temperaments

According to the ancient Greeks, human personalities were controlled by four bodily fluids or semifluids called humors: blood, black bile, yellow bile, and phlegm. Each humor was associated with one of the four basic elements: air, earth, fire, and water. Phlegm was paired with water—the cold, moist element—and it was believed to impart the cool, calm, unemotional personality we now call the "phlegmatic type." That's a bit odd, given that the term derives from the Greek phlegma, which literally means "flame," perhaps a reflection of the inflammation that colds and flus often bring.

Examples of phlegmatic in a Sentence

Some people are phlegmatic, some highly strung. Some are anxious, others risk-seeking. Some are confident, others shy. Some are quiet, others loquacious. We call these differences personality … — Matt Ridley, Genome, 1999 Why would a man live like this? Alone on the godforsaken prairie surrounded by whispering cornfields and phlegmatic Swedes if instead you could go to picture shows and snazzy restaurants and dance with a beautiful woman with her head on your shoulder and her perfume driving you wild? — Garrison Keillor, WLT: A Radio Romance, 1991 But Einstein was phlegmatic: when a book was published entitled 100 Authors Against Einstein, he retorted, "If I were wrong, then one would have been enough!" — Stephen W. Hawking, A Brief History of Time, 1988 a strangely phlegmatic response to what should have been happy news
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Recent Examples on the Web Sandler is by nature a performer in two tempi at once: beneath the phlegmatic, sardonic lag of his speech and gestures, the wheels are spinning at overdrive in his mind. Richard Brody, The New Yorker, "The Best Movie Performances of the Century So Far," 6 Mar. 2021 The windows stay black and phlegmatic as the air outside begins to heave with rain. Colin Channer, The New Yorker, "Spumante," 9 Nov. 2020 Whether his phlegmatic sales pitch, coming in the final week before Super Tuesday, will be enough to lift him up remains to be seen. New York Times, "Making Pitch to Voters, Bloomberg Peddles His Experience in a Crisis," 28 Feb. 2020 Australia’s normally phlegmatic society has been shaken. The Economist, "How to block blazes The lessons from Australia’s fires," 9 Jan. 2020 Another Ancelotti special from 2010, as the phlegmatic Italian showed MSK Zelina all of zero respect in the Champions League group stage by fielding Turnbull, Bruma, Van Aanholt, McEachran and Gael Kakuta AT THE SAME TIME., "5 of Chelsea's Scariest Lineups (for Their Own Fans) of Recent Times This Halloween," 31 Oct. 2019 Instead his Paterno is a phlegmatic Lear, an old man attempting to hide from an unsavory reality in what had always been his retreat and obsession — football. Frank Fitzpatrick,, "HBO's film on Joe Paterno is a tragedy, not a documentary," 6 Apr. 2018 The dancers were unassisted by a somewhat phlegmatic rendition of Paul Hindemith's score by the Chicago Philharmonic. Irene Hsiao, Chicago Reader, "The Joffrey’s Modern Masters could—and should—do better," 8 Feb. 2018 The topic is Hippocrates’ psychological prototypes — melancholic, sanguine, phlegmatic and choleric — based on ancient beliefs in four corresponding humors: black bile, blood, phlegm and yellow bile. Lauren Warnecke,, "Joffrey’s intense, anything-but-safe ‘Modern Masters’ shows how American ballet got here," 8 Feb. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'phlegmatic.' 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 phlegmatic

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for phlegmatic

see phlegm

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The first known use of phlegmatic was in the 14th century

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Cite this Entry

“Phlegmatic.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 12 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for phlegmatic



English Language Learners Definition of phlegmatic

literary : not easily upset, excited, or angered


phleg·​mat·​ic | \ fleg-ˈmat-ik How to pronounce phlegmatic (audio) \

Medical Definition of phlegmatic

1 : resembling, consisting of, or producing the humor phlegm
2 : having or showing a slow and stolid temperament

Other Words from phlegmatic

phlegmatically \ -​i-​k(ə-​)lē How to pronounce phlegmatic (audio) \ adverb

More from Merriam-Webster on phlegmatic

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for phlegmatic

Britannica English: Translation of phlegmatic for Arabic Speakers

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