[ puh-thet-ik ]
See synonyms for pathetic on
  1. causing or evoking pity, sympathetic sadness, sorrow, etc.; pitiful; pitiable: Conditions at the refugee camp were far more pathetic than anything our training had prepared us for.

  2. Informal. miserably or contemptibly inadequate: In return for our investment we get a pathetic three percent interest. The carpenter we hired is pathetic.

  1. Archaic. pertaining to, caused by, or affecting the emotions: pathetic outbursts.

Origin of pathetic

First recorded in 1590–1600; from Middle French pathétique or from Late Latin pathēticus, from Greek pathētikós “capable of emotion, impassioned, sensitive,” equivalent to pathēt(ós) “subject to suffering; one who has suffered; subject to external influence or change; (in medicine) diseased” (derivative of páschein “to suffer”) + -ikos adjective suffix; see -ic
  • Rarely pa·thet·i·cal .

Other words for pathetic

Other words from pathetic

  • pa·thet·i·cal·ly, adverb
  • pa·thet·i·cal·ness, noun
  • hy·per·pa·thet·ic, adjective
  • hy·per·pa·thet·i·cal·ly, adverb
  • qua·si-pa·thet·ic, adjective
  • qua·si-pa·thet·i·cal·ly, adverb
  • un·pa·thet·ic, adjective
  • un·pa·thet·i·cal·ly, adverb

Words that may be confused with pathetic Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2024

How to use pathetic in a sentence

  • It cheats and it sweats and it eviscerates and procrastinates and it comes up pathetically short in almost every area.

  • I was always "too drunk" or "had to get up early" or—pathetically—"was injured during rugby."

  • All these painful early experiences are told very pathetically in "Le Petit Chose."

    The Nabob | Alphonse Daudet
  • He was always pathetically anxious to impress on us that he had given a good deal of pain.

    The Romance of His Life | Mary Cholmondeley
  • Miss Breeze, who was rather pathetically dressed for church in all her best clothes, looked anxiously down at her friend.

    Happy House | Betsey Riddle, Freifrau von Hutten zum Stolzenberg
  • The king had once said pathetically: 'It is only M. Turgot and I who love the people.'

  • Rosie swallowed quite pathetically and blinked her eyes toward the ceiling.

    The Rosie World | Parker Fillmore

British Dictionary definitions for pathetic


/ (pəˈθɛtɪk) /

  1. evoking or expressing pity, sympathy, etc

  2. distressingly inadequate: the old man sat huddled in front of a pathetic fire

  1. British informal ludicrously or contemptibly uninteresting or worthless: the standard of goalkeeping in amateur football today is pathetic

  2. obsolete of or affecting the feelings

pl n
  1. pathetic sentiments

Origin of pathetic

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

Derived forms of pathetic

  • pathetically, adverb

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