AskDefine | Define pathos

Dictionary Definition



1 a quality that arouses emotions (especially pity or sorrow); "the film captured all the pathos of their situation" [syn: poignancy]
2 a feeling of sympathy and sorrow for the misfortunes of others; "the blind are too often objects of pity" [syn: commiseration, pity, ruth]
3 a style that has the power to evoke feelings

User Contributed Dictionary



From πάθος.


  1. The aspect of something which gives rise to a sense of pity
  2. Rhetorically, a writer's attempt to persuade an audience through appeals involving the use of strong emotions not strictly limited to pity.
  3. Critically, an author's attempt to evoke a feeling of pity or sympathetic sorrow for a character.
  4. In theology and existentialist ethics following Kierkegaard and Heidegger, a deep and abiding commitment of the heart, as in the notion of "finding your passion" as an important aspect of a fully-lived, engaged life.


  • 1790: The head Sublime, the heart Pathos, the genitals Beauty, the hands & feet Proportion. — William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, 1790
  • 1841: His coat, his waistcoat, his shoes and stockings, his trousers, his hat, his wit and humour, his pathos and his umbrella, all come before me like visions of my youth. — Charles Dickens, The Old Curiosity Shop, 1841
  • 1846–1848:'Won't you come with your poor Nurse Wickam, Master Paul?' inquired that attendant, with great pathos. — Charles Dickens, Dombey and Son, 1846–1848
  • 1854: Finally, she wished him good night, with great pathos — Charles Dickens, Hard Times, 1854
  • 1874: His voice had a genuine pathos now, and his large brown hands perceptibly trembled. — Thomas Hardy, Far From The Madding Crowd, 1874
  • 1891: What arrested him now as of value in life was less its beauty than its pathos. — Thomas Hardy, Tess of the d'Urbervilles, 1891.
  • 1919: With an overwhelming sense of pathos, for there is no pathos more bitter than that of parting from someone we have never met, George hailed a taxicab which crawled at the side of the road; and, with all the refrains of all the sentimental song hits he had ever composed ringing in his ears, he got in and passed away. — P.G. Wodehouse, A Damsel in Distress, 1919
  • 1977: The very attack [by Marxism] on God and the historical religions fosters a religious pathos, which attracts te often deracinated emotional energies of numerous contemporary men and women to itself. — Joseph Ratzinger, Eschatology: Death and Eternal Life, 1977


Related terms

Extensive Definition

Pathos () is one of the three modes of persuasion in rhetoric (along with ethos and logos). Pathos appeals to the audience's emotions. It is a part of Aristotle's philosophies in rhetoric. Not to be confused with bathos which is an attempt to perform in a serious, dramatic fashion that fails and ends up becoming comedy.
Emotional appeal can be accomplished in a multitude of ways:
  • by metaphor or story telling, common as a hook,
  • by a general passion in the delivery and an overall amount of emotional items in the text of the speech, or in writing.
In rhetoric, 'pathos' is the use of emotional appeals to alter the audience's judgment. A common use of pathos in argument is creating a sense of rejection if the audience doesn't agree. Creating a fear of rejection is in essence, creating a pathos argument.
Many refer to Pathos as the "band-wagon" appeal, or trying to convince the audience to join in on the speaker's belief. By making the statement in a way that cannot be argued, the audience feels driven to believe the speaker's opinion as a fact, thus joining the speaker in the belief that it is a commonly accepted idea. This is a major theme used in any form of propaganda.
Over-emotionalism can be the result of an excess of pathos.
The term is commonly used by critics, especially in positive reference to the dramatic performances of actors.
pathos in Danish: Patos
pathos in German: Pathos
pathos in Spanish: Pathos
pathos in French: Pathos
pathos in Italian: Pathos
pathos in Hebrew: פאתוס
pathos in Dutch: Pathos
pathos in Norwegian: Pathos
pathos in Polish: Patos (estetyka)
pathos in Portuguese: Pathos
pathos in Russian: Пафос (риторика)
pathos in Swedish: Patos

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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