Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Pathos

The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day is pathos. Read on for what it means, how it’s used, and more.

What It Means

Pathos refers to some element of an experience or of an artistic representation that evokes compassion or pity. The word also refers to a feeling of sympathetic pity.

// Our knowledge of the hero’s tragic end adds an element of pathos to the story of his early success.

PATHOS in Context

“It’s all in good fun, though. This is Maverick’s movie, as the title declares. As a character study of an iconic hero, Cruise and Kosinski do fine work, plumbing pathos and power out of a mythic One Last Flight.” — Eric Webb, Austin (Texas) American-Statesman, 27 May 2022

Did You Know?

The Greek word páthos means “experience, misfortune, emotion, condition,” and comes from Greek path-, meaning “experience, undergo, suffer.” In English, pathos usually refers to the element in an experience or in an artistic work that makes us feel compassion, pity, or sympathy. The word is a member of a big family: empathy is the ability to share someone else’s feelings. Pathetic (in its gentlest uses) describes things that move us to pity. Though pathology is not literally “the study of suffering,” it is “the study of diseases.” Other relatives of pathos include sympathy, apathy, and antipathy.

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