causing or evoking pity, sympathetic sadness, sorrow, etc.; pitiful; pitiable: a pathetic letter; a pathetic sight.
affecting or moving the emotions.
pertaining to or caused by the emotions.
miserably or contemptibly inadequate: In return for our investment we get a pathetic three percent interest.

Often pa·thet·i·cal.

Origin of pathetic

1590–1600; < Late Latin pathēticus < Greek pathētikós sensitive equivalent to pathēt(ós) made or liable to suffer (verbid of páschein to suffer + -ikos -ic
Related formspa·thet·i·cal·ly, adverbpa·thet·i·cal·ness, nounhy·per·pa·thet·ic, adjectivehy·per·pa·thet·i·cal, adjectivehy·per·pa·thet·i·cal·ly, adverbqua·si-pa·thet·ic, adjectivequa·si-pa·thet·i·cal·ly, adverbun·pa·thet·ic, adjectiveun·pa·thet·i·cal·ly, adverb
Can be confusedbathetic pathetic

Synonyms for pathetic Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for pathetical

Historical Examples of pathetical

  • Our old vicar preached, taking leave of the parish in a pathetical speech, to go to a living in the city.

  • How pathetical seemed to her the ignorance of the two men who were her companions in the cloistered house at this time.

    Tongues of Conscience

    Robert Smythe Hichens

  • For what is a heap of the most pathetical words to God Almighty; or the dedication of any place or time to him?

    No Cross, No Crown

    William Penn

  • A most weighty and pathetical discourse: they that know anything of God may savour something divine in it.

    No Cross, No Crown

    William Penn

  • And then, having finished this pathetical little story of his misfortune, Mr. Mollett senior finished his glass of toddy.

    Castle Richmond

    Anthony Trollope

British Dictionary definitions for pathetical



evoking or expressing pity, sympathy, etc
distressingly inadequatethe old man sat huddled in front of a pathetic fire
British informal ludicrously or contemptibly uninteresting or worthlessthe standard of goalkeeping in amateur football today is pathetic
obsolete of or affecting the feelings

pl n

pathetic sentiments
Derived Formspathetically, adverb

Word Origin for pathetic

C16: from French pathétique, via Late Latin from Greek pathetikos sensitive, from pathos suffering; see pathos
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 pathetical



1590s, "affecting the emotions, exciting the passions," from Middle French pathétique "moving, stirring, affecting" (16c.), from Late Latin patheticus, from Greek pathetikos "subject to feeling, sensitive, capable of emotion," from pathetos "liable to suffer," verbal adjective of pathein "to suffer" (see pathos). Meaning "arousing pity, pitiful" is first recorded 1737. Colloquial sense of "so miserable as to be ridiculous" is attested from 1937. Related: Pathetical (1570s); pathetically. Pathetic fallacy (1856, first used by Ruskin) is the attribution of human qualities to inanimate objects.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper