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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. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for piteous
Historical Examples
  • From the shadow of a tree there moved one of those brazen and piteous she-ghosts that haunt the locality.

    Our Square and the People in It Samuel Hopkins Adams
  • She turned with a piteous, half apologetic air to Edouard and Aubertin.

    White Lies Charles Reade
  • Sorez placed his hand to his heart again and staggered back with a piteous appeal to Wilson.

    The Web of the Golden Spider Frederick Orin Bartlett
  • The cry at length became changed from a demand to a piteous prayer.

    The Boy Slaves Mayne Reid
  • Finally someone was roused to shame and remorse at the piteous sight; he was washed, shaved, and decently clothed.

    Joan of Arc Laura E. Richards
  • He, on his part, filled the air with the most piteous lamentations and cries for mercy.

  • The noise of the fight came closer and closer, and the wounded crept in a piteous stream to us.

    A King's Comrade Charles Whistler
  • Ay, in very deed I am a piteous object for friends to behold.

  • There is nothing so piteous as the absence of recognition of the patient's best friends in cases of brain-disease.

    Brooke's Daughter Adeline Sergeant
  • There was a long silence, in which they could hear a piteous gulping cough.

    The Longest Journey E. M. Forster
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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