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[pit-ee-uh s] /ˈpɪt i əs/
evoking or deserving pity; pathetic:
piteous cries for help.
Archaic. compassionate.
Origin of piteous
1250-1300; Middle English; replacing pitous < Old French < Medieval Latin pietōsus. See pity, -ous
Related forms
piteously, adverb
piteousness, noun
overpiteous, adjective
overpiteously, adverb
overpiteousness, noun
unpiteous, adjective
unpiteously, adverb
Can be confused
piteous, pitiable, pitiful (see synonym study at pitiful)
1. affecting, moving, distressing, lamentable, woeful, sad, wretched, sorrowful.
Synonym Study
1. See pitiful. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for piteous
Historical Examples
  • Are none to be gentle and kind, none to be piteous and forgiving?

    The White Company Arthur Conan Doyle
  • The poor fellow gave a piteous moan, but still did not stir.

    Rico and Wiseli Johanna Spyri
  • He began shivering at this again, and his voice sank into a piteous quaver.

    In the Valley Harold Frederic
  • Stryker turned upon him an expression at once ludicrous, piteous and hateful.

    The Black Bag Louis Joseph Vance
  • She remained kneeling by the chair, looking up at him with a most piteous face.

  • It is imperious and obedient, sincere and false, piteous and cruel, timid and bold.

    Reflections Francois Duc De La Rochefoucauld
  • If the whole affair had not been so piteous it would have seemed grotesque.

    Cleo The Magnificent

    Louis Zangwill
  • His face was worn and ashy, but his eyes burned with a piteous fire.

    The Scapegoat Hall Caine
  • He looked at her piteous face and his strength almost ebbed away.

    The Manxman Hall Caine
  • I beg you to pause and consider this girl's piteous condition.

British Dictionary definitions for piteous


exciting or deserving pity
(archaic) having or expressing pity
Derived Forms
piteously, adverb
piteousness, noun
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for piteous

c.1300, from Anglo-French pitous, Old French pitos "pious; merciful, compassionate, moved to pity; pitiful" (12c., Modern French piteux), from Medieval Latin pietosus "merciful, pitiful," in Vulgar Latin "dutiful," from Latin pietas "dutiful conduct, compassion" (see piety). Related: Piteously; piteousness.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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