piteous, pitiable, pitiful
All three words are recorded from Middle English and share the basic meaning ‘arousing pity’ and are to some extent interchangeable (as in The abandoned children were a piteous sight), although pitiful is the most versatile and piteous is the least common. Piteous and pitiable can both convey the meaning ‘deserving pity’, and pitiable and pitiful convey the meaning ‘evoking mingled pity and contempt’. Pitiful alone is used in the meaning ‘absurdly small or insignificant’, as in The state pension has been reduced to a pitiful sum. Examples:

• A pitiful tube squirts water to a height of a couple of feet —J. D. R. McConnell, 1970

• How she had suffered for him, for her poor pitiable ridiculous father —Margaret Drabble, 1987

• ‘What did I do this time?’ Helen looked piteous —Maeve Binchy, 1988

• He had been a thorn in the Empire's side for many years, and he had eluded their pitiful armies again and again —fiction website, BrE 2006 [OEC].

Modern English usage. 2014.


Look at other dictionaries:

  • Pitiable — Pit i*a*ble, a. [Cf. OF. pitiable, F. pitoyable.] Deserving pity; wworthy of, or exciting, compassion; miserable; lamentable; piteous; as, pitiable persons; a pitiable condition; pitiable wretchedness. [1913 Webster] Syn: Sorrowful; woeful; sad.… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • pitiable — index deplorable, lamentable Burton s Legal Thesaurus. William C. Burton. 2006 …   Law dictionary

  • pitiable — (adj.) mid 15c., from O.Fr. piteable (13c.; Mod.Fr. pitoyable), from piteer to pity (see PITY (Cf. pity)) …   Etymology dictionary

  • pitiable — 1 piteous, *pitiful Analogous words: sad, depressed, dejected, melancholy (see corresponding nouns at SADNESS): forlorn, hopeless, despairing, desperate, *despondent 2 despicable, *contemptible, sorry, scurvy, cheap, beggarly, shabby Analogous… …   New Dictionary of Synonyms

  • pitiable — ► ADJECTIVE 1) deserving or arousing pity. 2) contemptibly poor or small. DERIVATIVES pitiably adverb …   English terms dictionary

  • pitiable — [pit′ē ə bəl] adj. [ME piteable < MFr < pitier: see PITY] arousing or deserving pity, sometimes mixed with scorn or contempt SYN. PITIFUL pitiableness n. pitiably adv …   English World dictionary

  • pitiable — adjective Date: 15th century 1. deserving or exciting pity ; lamentable < pitiable victims > 2. of a kind to evoke mingled pity and contempt especially because of inadequacy < a pitiable excuse > Synonyms: see contemptible • pitiableness noun • …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • pitiable — pitiableness, n. pitiably, adv. /pit ee euh beuhl/, adj. 1. evoking or deserving pity; lamentable: pitiable, homeless children. 2. evoking or deserving contemptuous pity; miserable; contemptible: a pitiable lack of character. [1425 75; late ME …   Universalium

  • pitiable — [[t]pɪ̱tiəb(ə)l[/t]] ADJ GRADED Someone who is pitiable is in such a sad or weak state that you feel pity for them. [WRITTEN] Her grandmother seemed to her a pitiable figure. Syn: pitiful Derived words: pitiably [[t]pɪ̱tiəbli[/t]] ADV GRADED ADV… …   English dictionary

  • pitiable — See pitiable, piteous …   Dictionary of problem words and expressions

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