1. causing or evoking pity, sympathetic sadness, sorrow, etc.; pitiful; pitiable: a pathetic letter; a pathetic sight.
  2. affecting or moving the emotions.
  3. pertaining to or caused by the emotions.
  4. 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. 2018

Examples from the Web for pathetically

Contemporary Examples of pathetically

Historical Examples of pathetically

  • "Three boys and a babe at the buzzom," said Mr. Stubmore pathetically.

    Night and Morning, Complete

    Edward Bulwer-Lytton

  • It is a most pathetically pure, chaste presentation of a grand subject.

    Almost A Man

    Mary Wood-Allen

  • When Calhoun did so, Murgatroyd clung to him pathetically and said, "Chee-chee!"

    Pariah Planet

    Murray Leinster

  • A clumsy, forecastle method, and most pathetically engaging, to be sure!

  • He looked at Gorman, pathetically anxious for some crumb of encouragement.

    The Island Mystery

    George A. Birmingham

British Dictionary definitions for pathetically


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



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