Try Our Apps


Famous Last Words


[pit-i-fuh l] /ˈpɪt ɪ fəl/
evoking or deserving pity:
a pitiful fate.
evoking or deserving contempt by smallness, poor quality, etc.:
pitiful attempts.
Archaic. full of pity; compassionate.
Origin of pitiful
late Middle English
late Middle English word dating back to 1400-50; See origin at pity, -ful
Related forms
pitifully, adverb
pitifulness, noun
self-pitiful, adjective
self-pitifully, adverb
self-pitifulness, noun
unpitiful, adjective
unpitifully, adverb
unpitifulness, noun
Can be confused
piteous, pitiable, pitiful (see synonym study at the current entry)
1. lamentable, deplorable, woeful, pathetic. 2. deplorable, mean, low, base, vile, despicable.
1. delightful. 2. honorable.
Synonym Study
1, 2. Pitiful, pitiable, piteous apply to that which excites pity (with compassion or with contempt). That which is pitiful is touching and excites pity or is mean and contemptible: a pitiful leper; a pitiful exhibition of cowardice. Pitiable may mean lamentable, or wretched and paltry: a pitiable hovel. Piteous refers only to that which exhibits suffering and misery, and is therefore heart-rending: piteous poverty. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
Cite This Source
Examples from the Web for pitifully
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • In the extremity of his fear he burst out crying, not very loud, but softly and pitifully, as if he hardly knew what he was doing.

    The House in the Water Charles G. D. Roberts
  • Oh, tender heart of Honora that sighed for him so pitifully!

    The Art of Disappearing John Talbot Smith
  • Once a day a small ration was doled out--pitifully small--enough to tantalise appetite, but not to still hunger.

    The Gaunt Gray Wolf Dillon Wallace
  • Sometimes he would call out to them pitifully to put him out of his misery.

    Brand Blotters William MacLeod Raine
  • The poet is fully conscious that his value in the world's market is pitifully small; that he is neither wealthy nor learned.

    Creative Unity Rabindranath Tagore
  • "Do not cry," said Ezra pitifully, and with a patience wonderful in a boy of his years.

    Christmas Light Ethel Calvert Phillips
  • There was a tense moment of waiting, and then the fusillade began again, pitifully weak from the sheepmen.

    The Free Range Francis William Sullivan
British Dictionary definitions for pitifully


arousing or deserving pity
arousing or deserving contempt
(archaic) full of pity or compassion
Derived Forms
pitifully, adverb
pitifulness, 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
Cite This Source
Word Origin and History for pitifully



c.1300, "merciful, compassionate" (implied in pitifully), from pity + -ful. Sense of "exciting or deserving pity" is from mid-15c.; that of "mean, wretched, contemptible" is 1580s. Related: Pitifulness.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
Cite This Source

Word of the Day

Difficulty index for pitiful

Some English speakers likely know this word

Word Value for pitifully

Scrabble Words With Friends

Nearby words for pitifully