adjective phleg·mat·ic \fleg-ˈma-tik\

Definition of phlegmatic

  1. 1 :  resembling, consisting of, or producing the humor phlegm

  2. 2 :  having or showing a slow and stolid temperament


play \fleg-ˈma-ti-k(ə-)lē\ adverb

phlegmatic was our Word of the Day on 10/12/2016. Hear the podcast!

Examples of phlegmatic in a sentence

  1. 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

  2. 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

  3. 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

  4. a strangely phlegmatic response to what should have been happy news

Did You Know?

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.

Origin and Etymology of phlegmatic

see phlegm

First Known Use: 14th century

Synonym Discussion of 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

Other Physiology Terms

PHLEGMATIC Defined for English Language Learners


adjective phleg·mat·ic \fleg-ˈma-tik\

Definition of phlegmatic for English Language Learners

  • : not easily upset, excited, or angered

Medical Dictionary


adjective phleg·mat·ic \fleg-ˈmat-ik\

Medical Definition of phlegmatic

  1. 1:  resembling, consisting of, or producing the humor phlegm

  2. 2:  having or showing a slow and stolid temperament


\-i-k(ə-)lē\play adverb

Seen and Heard

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


to cast off or become cast off

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