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.

Игры ⚽ Поможем решить контрольную работу

Look at other dictionaries:

  • pitiful — pitiful, piteous, pitiable are comparable but not always interchangeable when they mean arousing or deserving pity or compassion. Pitiful applies especially to what actually excites pity or, sometimes, commiseration because it is felt to be… …   New Dictionary of Synonyms

  • Pitiful — Pit i*ful, a. 1. Full of pity; tender hearted; compassionate; kind; merciful; sympathetic. [1913 Webster] The Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy. James v. 11. [1913 Webster] 2. Piteous; lamentable; eliciting compassion. [1913 Webster] A… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • pitiful — [pit′i fəl] adj. 1. arousing or deserving pity 2. deserving contempt; despicable 3. Archaic full of pity or compassion pitifully adv. pitifulness n. SYN. PITIFUL applies to that which arouses or deserves pity because it is sad, pathetic, etc.… …   English World dictionary

  • pitiful — index deplorable, lamentable, paltry, poor (inferior in quality) Burton s Legal Thesaurus. William C. Burton. 2006 …   Law dictionary

  • pitiful — c.1300, compassionate (implied in pitifully), from PITY (Cf. pity) + FUL (Cf. ful). Sense of exciting or deserving pity is from mid 15c.; that of mean, wretched, contemptible is 1580s …   Etymology dictionary

  • pitiful — [adj] in bad shape; poor abject, affecting, afflicted, arousing, base, beggarly, cheap, cheerless, comfortless, commiserative, compassionate, contemptible, deplorable, despicable, dismal, distressed, distressing, grievous, heartbreaking,… …   New thesaurus

  • pitiful — ► ADJECTIVE 1) deserving or arousing pity. 2) very small or poor; inadequate. DERIVATIVES pitifully adverb pitifulness noun …   English terms dictionary

  • pitiful — [[t]pɪ̱tɪfʊl[/t]] 1) ADJ GRADED Someone or something that is pitiful is so sad, weak, or small that you feel pity for them. He sounded both pitiful and eager to get what he wanted... It was the most pitiful sight I had ever seen. Derived words:… …   English dictionary

  • pitiful — pit|i|ful [ pıtıfl ] adjective 1. ) looking or sounding so unhappy that you feel sympathy and sadness: The scrawny little kitten looked so pitiful out in the rain. The refugee camp was a pitiful sight. 2. ) extremely bad: a pitiful performance a… …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • pitiful — UK [ˈpɪtɪf(ə)l] / US adjective 1) looking or sounding so unhappy that you feel sympathy and sadness The scrawny little kitten looked so pitiful out in the rain. The refugee camp was a pitiful sight. 2) extremely bad a pitiful performance a… …   English dictionary

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”