AskDefine | Define pathetic

Dictionary Definition

pathetic adj
1 deserving or inciting pity; "a hapless victim"; "miserable victims of war"; "the shabby room struck her as extraordinarily pathetic"- Galsworthy; "piteous appeals for help"; "pitiable homeless children"; "a pitiful fate"; "Oh, you poor thing"; "his poor distorted limbs"; "a wretched life" [syn: hapless, miserable, misfortunate, piteous, pitiable, pitiful, poor, wretched]
2 inspiring mixed contempt and pity; "their efforts were pathetic"; "pitiable lack of character"; "pitiful exhibition of cowardice" [syn: pitiable, pitiful]
3 inspiring scornful pity; "how silly an ardent and unsuccessful wooer can be especially if he is getting on in years"- Dashiell Hammett [syn: ridiculous, silly]

User Contributed Dictionary



From Latinized patheticus, from παθητικός italbrac pathetikos “subject to feeling, capable of feeling, impassioned”, from παθητός italbrac pathetos “one who has suffered, subject to suffering”, from παθείν italbrac pathein “to receive an impression from without, to suffer”.


  • /pəˈθɛtɪk/, /p@"TEtIk/
  • Rhymes: -ɛtɪk


  1. Arousing pity, sympathy, or compassion.
    The old man’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.


Arousing pity, sympathy, or compassion
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