noun, plural leth·ar·gies.

the quality or state of being drowsy and dull, listless and unenergetic, or indifferent and lazy; apathetic or sluggish inactivity.
Pathology. an abnormal state or disorder characterized by overpowering drowsiness or sleep.

Origin of lethargy

1325–75; < Late Latin lēthargia < Greek lēthargía, equivalent to lḗtharg(os) drowsy + -ia -y3 (see Lethe, -algia); replacing Middle English litargie < Medieval Latin litargīa < Late Greek, Greek, as above
Related formshy·per·leth·ar·gy, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for lethargy

Contemporary Examples of lethargy

  • “I believe it is necessary to sacrifice myself to break through the lethargy that overwhelms us,” he wrote.

    The Daily Beast logo
    You Say You Want a Revolution?

    Christopher Dickey

    June 23, 2013

  • An inquiry launched into the handling of the case should make clear whether that lethargy amounted to deliberate neglect.

    The Daily Beast logo
    News Scandal’s Next Victims?

    William Underhill

    July 7, 2011

  • Arizona is no longer the sun-drenched home of the Grand Canyon, golf courses, and retirees exulting in 100-degree lethargy.

    The Daily Beast logo
    The Governor Who Hates Her State

    Bryan Curtis

    July 19, 2010

Historical Examples of lethargy

  • Her conversion was an event that broke the lethargy of their stagnant life.

    Leila, Complete

    Edward Bulwer-Lytton

  • He had gradually dropped to the floor, and lay there in a lethargy, worn out.

    A Tale of Two Cities

    Charles Dickens

  • Grendon snapped out of the lethargy into which he had sunk, face drawn and gray.

    Slaves of Mercury

    Nat Schachner

  • But the wounded man shook off his lethargy and for a moment had command of his faculties.

    The Downfall

    Emile Zola

  • But not even that gibe could stir M. Binet out of his lethargy of content.


    Rafael Sabatini

British Dictionary definitions for lethargy


noun plural -gies

sluggishness, slowness, or dullness
an abnormal lack of energy, esp as the result of a disease
Derived Formslethargic (lɪˈθɑːdʒɪk) or lethargical, adjectivelethargically, adverb

Word Origin for lethargy

C14: from Late Latin lēthargīa, from Greek lēthargos drowsy, from lēthē forgetfulness
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

Word Origin and History for lethargy

late 14c., litarge, from Old French litargie or directly from Medieval Latin litargia, from Late Latin lethargia, from Greek lethargia "forgetfulness," from lethargos "forgetful," originally "inactive through forgetfulness," from lethe "forgetfulness" (see latent) + argos "idle" (see argon). The form with -th- is from 1590s in English.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

lethargy in Medicine




A state of sluggishness, inactivity, and apathy.
A state of unconsciousness resembling deep sleep.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.