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

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
Recent Examples on the Web One of Banky’s first public murals to receive widespread attention portrayed a phlegmatic Teddy bear throwing a Molotov cocktail at riot police. oregonlive, 4 Apr. 2022 Such audacities were otherwise quashed in Holbein’s supervening duties to phlegmatic patrons. Peter Schjeldahl, The New Yorker, 21 Feb. 2022 While Putin saw these events as cataclysmic, Merkel already seemed to have the strangely phlegmatic attitude toward grand ideas of history that would characterize her sixteen-year reign as chancellor of the united Germany. Fintan O’toole, The New York Review of Books, 18 Oct. 2021 Neither hyperactive grandstanding in Paris nor phlegmatic passivity from Berlin has prevented the emergence of a common Western position. Walter Russell Mead, WSJ, 21 Feb. 2022 The Diamondbacks’ approach heading into the 2021 season was decidedly phlegmatic. Tony Blengino, Forbes, 12 Nov. 2021 Massimiliano Allegri, given the circumstances, was surprisingly phlegmatic. New York Times, 27 Aug. 2021 Both the phlegmatic Pliny the Younger and the priapic and ill-fated Diocles also have their say. Claire Messud, Harper's Magazine, 17 Aug. 2021 The North Stars, led by phlegmatic coach Bob Gainey, upset Chicago first, then the Blues — finishing both in a Game 6 in front of a fanatical crowd that included many young, thirsty folks who had warmed up by tailgating in the Met Center lots. Star Tribune, 10 July 2021 See More

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.

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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Last Updated

15 Apr 2022

Cite this Entry

“Phlegmatic.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for phlegmatic


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

Britannica English: Translation of phlegmatic for Arabic Speakers


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