Something pathetic inspires pity and contempt. If your backhand is pathetic, you probably shouldn't try out for the tennis team.

These days, when you see the word pathetic, it's pretty clear that it's no compliment. This is an insulting word for things that are so bad they bum you out. A sports team losing ten games in a row is pathetic. Someone who constantly lies, even though the lies are obvious, is pathetic. Trying to dunk a basketball and missing by three feet is pathetic. When something is astoundingly lame or awful, people love to say, "Wow. How pathetic."

Definitions of pathetic

adj deserving or inciting pity

“"the shabby room struck her as extraordinarily pathetic"- Galsworthy”
hapless, miserable, misfortunate, piteous, pitiable, pitiful, poor, wretched
not favored by fortune; marked or accompanied by or resulting in ill fortune

adj inspiring mixed contempt and pity

“their efforts were pathetic
pitiable, pitiful
deserving of contempt or scorn

adj inspiring scornful pity

ridiculous, silly
lacking dignity

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