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From Middle French pathétique, from Latin patheticus, from Ancient Greek παθητικός (pathētikós, subject to feeling, capable of feeling, impassioned), from παθητός (pathētós, one who has suffered, subject to suffering), from πάσχω (páskhō, to suffer).



pathetic (comparative more pathetic, superlative most pathetic)

  1. Arousing pity, sympathy, or compassion.
    The child’s pathetic pleas for forgiveness stirred the young man’s heart.
  2. Arousing scornful pity or contempt, often due to miserable inadequacy.
    You can't even run two miles? That’s pathetic.
    You're almost 26 years old and you still can't hold a real job? That's pathetic.
    • 2005, In Her Shoes:
      Well you'd better think of something because middle-aged tramps aren't cute, they're pathetic.
    • 2014 November 2, John Oliver, “State Legislatures and ALEC”, in Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, season 1, episode 23, HBO:
      Look, I-I hate to sound like Billy Baldwin’s agent, but you can’t just copy everything that ALEC does! It’s pathetic!”
  3. (obsolete) Expressing or showing anger; passionate.


Derived terms

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