Definition of pathetic in US English:



  • 1Arousing pity, especially through vulnerability or sadness.

    ‘she looked so pathetic that I bent down to comfort her’
    • ‘His heart skipped a beat with joy and he then wondered if it made him pathetic.’
    • ‘You're a weak, pathetic fool, a voice said in my head.’
    • ‘His Graham is a pathetic, vulnerable figure who inspires both pity and amusement.’
    • ‘From the very beginning, toddlers are made to carry heavy burden of books and copies which really is a pathetic sight.’
    • ‘"Sorry… " I replied lamely, beginning to look even more pathetic.’
    • ‘She is good-hearted and took pity on my pathetic form whenever I was sent to the kitchens by my mistresses.’
    • ‘I read the news in regards to your situation and find it pathetic.’
    • ‘But your pathetic attempt to conceal your identity made me pity you.’
    • ‘Most of them carried little bundles and they were a pathetic sight.’
    • ‘She sniffed sullenly, as if trying to emphasize her disdain, but only sounded rather pathetic.’
    • ‘The figure, in its nakedness, has an almost ghostly, insubstantial quality, a pathetic vulnerability.’
    • ‘It upsets me that someone so engagingly pathetic can be so disruptive.’
    • ‘Hey, call me pathetic, but I was absolutely desperate for friends.’
    • ‘Standing, she looked down at the pathetic, toothless creature at her feet.’
    • ‘It seemed somehow forlorn and pathetic as if it had been suddenly abandoned.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘He watched as the shadowy silhouette of one of the pathetic creatures stumbled past.’
    • ‘A big red bus rolled past, around a curve, and out of sight as I waved in pathetic desperation.’
    • ‘I'm sure this all sounds a bit pathetic to someone in your position.’
    pitiful, pitiable, piteous, to be pitied, moving, touching, poignant, plaintive, stirring
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1informal Miserably inadequate.
      ‘his test scores in Chemistry were pathetic’
      • ‘That article was the most pathetic excuse for him to showcase his infantile vocabulary.’
      • ‘However, Timothy found it to be pretty pathetic attempt at an insult.’
      • ‘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?’
      • ‘In practice, a vast amount of spiritualist messages seem pathetic in their banality and sentimentality.’
      • ‘Or if it does, it's a pretty pathetic excuse for a church.’
      • ‘I'm not even going to link to it as it was so pathetic.’
      • ‘Karl made some pathetic excuse about having to go to Croydon.’
      • ‘Jasmine gave out this little laugh that she thought sounded pretty pathetic.’
      • ‘Then we get this paltry, pathetic excuse for a bill, and we are all supposed to become excited about it.’
      • ‘I hope this doesn't come out as a pathetic excuse of why I haven't updated in a while.’
      • ‘By which I mean I will use the most pathetic excuses to avoid doing anything.’
      • ‘After they had finished their pathetic excuse for a meal, they continued on their way.’
      • ‘I would like to know what pathetic excuses these so-called fans have for staying at home.’
      • ‘They hold the foreigners in contempt, calling them aliens and capering about in a pathetic attempt to feel superior.’
      • ‘As I come into town, I pass the local mechanic's place, a pathetic excuse for a garage.’
      • ‘He covers his smile with a hand and examines her pathetic excuse for a tent.’
      • ‘Louis had a defeated look on his face and Henry was dancing around him in a pathetic excuse for a victory dance.’
      • ‘I gave it a go and this year I have had about 50 apricots on my pathetic excuse for a tree.’
      • ‘Every now and then, we in the gaming community are presented with a pathetic excuse for a video game, a console port.’
  • 2archaic Relating to the emotions.

  • 3informal Miserably inadequate.

    ‘his test scores in Chemistry were pathetic’
    feeble, woeful, sorry, poor, pitiful, lamentable, deplorable, miserable, wretched, contemptible, despicable, inadequate, meagre, paltry, insufficient, negligible, insubstantial, unsatisfactory, worthless
    View synonyms


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