Definition of pathetic in English:



  • 1Arousing pity, especially through vulnerability or sadness.

    ‘she looked so pathetic that I bent down to comfort her’
    • ‘I'm sure this all sounds a bit pathetic to someone in your position.’
    • ‘But your pathetic attempt to conceal your identity made me pity you.’
    • ‘Standing, she looked down at the pathetic, toothless creature at her feet.’
    • ‘"Sorry… " I replied lamely, beginning to look even more pathetic.’
    • ‘Anyone who is sick, or poor, or generally pathetic would lack credibility as a prophet.’
    • ‘Writing a story about an ex-boyfriend from several months ago seemed a bit pathetic.’
    • ‘His Graham is a pathetic, vulnerable figure who inspires both pity and amusement.’
    • ‘He watched as the shadowy silhouette of one of the pathetic creatures stumbled past.’
    • ‘She is good-hearted and took pity on my pathetic form whenever I was sent to the kitchens by my mistresses.’
    • ‘She sniffed sullenly, as if trying to emphasize her disdain, but only sounded rather pathetic.’
    • ‘You're a weak, pathetic fool, a voice said in my head.’
    • ‘A big red bus rolled past, around a curve, and out of sight as I waved in pathetic desperation.’
    • ‘His heart skipped a beat with joy and he then wondered if it made him pathetic.’
    • ‘I read the news in regards to your situation and find it pathetic.’
    • ‘It upsets me that someone so engagingly pathetic can be so disruptive.’
    • ‘From the very beginning, toddlers are made to carry heavy burden of books and copies which really is a pathetic sight.’
    • ‘It seemed somehow forlorn and pathetic as if it had been suddenly abandoned.’
    • ‘Hey, call me pathetic, but I was absolutely desperate for friends.’
    • ‘The figure, in its nakedness, has an almost ghostly, insubstantial quality, a pathetic vulnerability.’
    • ‘Most of them carried little bundles and they were a pathetic sight.’
    pitiful, pitiable, piteous, to be pitied, moving, touching, poignant, plaintive, stirring
    View synonyms
  • 2informal Miserably inadequate.

    ‘he's a pathetic excuse for a man’
    • ‘As I come into town, I pass the local mechanic's place, a pathetic excuse for a garage.’
    • ‘Then we get this paltry, pathetic excuse for a bill, and we are all supposed to become excited about it.’
    • ‘Karl made some pathetic excuse about having to go to Croydon.’
    • ‘After they had finished their pathetic excuse for a meal, they continued on their way.’
    • ‘Or if it does, it's a pretty pathetic excuse for a church.’
    • ‘The man was a pathetic loser who couldn't even write a decent story.’
    • ‘But for now, I'm the pathetic loser, and you know what?’
    • ‘I gave it a go and this year I have had about 50 apricots on my pathetic excuse for a tree.’
    • ‘Louis had a defeated look on his face and Henry was dancing around him in a pathetic excuse for a victory dance.’
    • ‘I hope this doesn't come out as a pathetic excuse of why I haven't updated in a while.’
    • ‘I would like to know what pathetic excuses these so-called fans have for staying at home.’
    • ‘Every now and then, we in the gaming community are presented with a pathetic excuse for a video game, a console port.’
    • ‘They hold the foreigners in contempt, calling them aliens and capering about in a pathetic attempt to feel superior.’
    • ‘I'm not even going to link to it as it was so pathetic.’
    • ‘He covers his smile with a hand and examines her pathetic excuse for a tent.’
    • ‘However, Timothy found it to be pretty pathetic attempt at an insult.’
    • ‘Jasmine gave out this little laugh that she thought sounded pretty pathetic.’
    • ‘That article was the most pathetic excuse for him to showcase his infantile vocabulary.’
    • ‘In practice, a vast amount of spiritualist messages seem pathetic in their banality and sentimentality.’
    • ‘By which I mean I will use the most pathetic excuses to avoid doing anything.’
    feeble, woeful, sorry, poor, pitiful, lamentable, deplorable, miserable, wretched, contemptible, despicable, inadequate, meagre, paltry, insufficient, negligible, insubstantial, unsatisfactory, worthless
    View synonyms
  • 3archaic Relating to the emotions.


Late 16th century (in the sense ‘affecting the emotions’): via late Latin from Greek pathētikos ‘sensitive’, based on pathos ‘suffering’.