piti·​ful ˈpi-ti-fəl How to pronounce pitiful (audio)
archaic : full of pity : compassionate
: deserving or arousing pity or commiseration
: exciting pitying contempt (as by meanness or inadequacy)
pitiful wages
pitifully adverb
pitifulness noun

Examples of pitiful in a Sentence

She made a pitiful attempt to complete her work. that piece of junk is a pitiful excuse for a car
Recent Examples on the Web The whole pitiful saga does have the ring of destiny calling at last, with nothing but kind words. Hannah Gold, Harper's Magazine, 3 Nov. 2023 The Hamas terror attack, together with the ongoing Ukraine war and the looming Chinese threat to Taiwan, is putting a spotlight on the pitiful state of our capacity to manufacture the weapons necessary to the defense of our allies and ourselves. Rich Lowry, National Review, 13 Oct. 2023 One Israeli police officer, his pistol a pitiful riposte to the automatic weapons of Hamas terrorists, screamed at her to go east, away from Gaza. Roger Cohen Avishag Shaar-Yashuv, New York Times, 15 Oct. 2023 Asher is pitiful and awkward and deeply petty, the kind of socially oblivious man who regularly puts his foot in his mouth and spends lots of time on the phone with customer service trying to get small refunds. Vulture, 13 Oct. 2023 Facing elimination in Game 3 of the National League Division Series on Wednesday night, their backs against the wall following two home losses to start the postseason, the Dodgers crumbled for good in pitiful and, given their seasonlong pitching problems, predictable fashion. Houston Mitchell, Los Angeles Times, 12 Oct. 2023 The idea was to experience the music from within, however pitiful the results. Alex Ross, The New Yorker, 4 Sep. 2023 Coming out of the halftime locker room after a pitiful start, the Timbers dialed up the intensity. oregonlive, 26 Aug. 2023 The sad truth is that any Democratic candidate, no matter how pitiful, would beat Donald Trump at this point. Readers, WSJ, 25 Aug. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'pitiful.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of pitiful was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near pitiful

Cite this Entry

“Pitiful.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pitiful. Accessed 4 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


piti·​ful ˈpit-i-fəl How to pronounce pitiful (audio)
: deserving or arousing pity or sympathy
a pitiful mongrel
: deserving pitying scorn (as by not being adequate)
a pitiful excuse
pitifully adverb

More from Merriam-Webster on pitiful

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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