Word of the Day : September 26, 2010


adjective FATT-ik


: of, relating to, or being speech used for social or emotive purposes rather than for communicating information

Did You Know?

“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."


Joe has a tendency to take even phatic inquiries seriously, so when Kristen asked him how he was feeling, I knew the answer would be much longer than "better, thanks."

"Conversation is also more than the explicit back and forth between individuals asking questions and directly referencing one another. It's about the more subtle back and forth that allow us to keep our connections going. It's about the phatic communication and the gestures, the little updates and the awareness of what's happening in space." -- From an article about Twitter by Danah Boyd in Vator News, September 10, 2009


More Words of the Day

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!