Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. An abrupt, unintended transition in style from the exalted to the commonplace, producing a ludicrous effect.
  • n. An anticlimax.
  • n. Insincere or grossly sentimental pathos: "a richly textured man who . . . can be . . . sentimental to the brink of bathos” ( Kenneth L. Woodward).
  • n. Banality; triteness.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. Depth, bottom.
  • n. An abrupt change in style, usually from high to low; an unintended transition of style; an anticlimax.
  • n. Triteness; triviality; banality.
  • n. Overly sentimental and exaggerated pathos.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A ludicrous descent from the elevated to the low, in writing or speech; anticlimax.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. Depth; lowest part or stage; bottom.
  • n. A ludicrous descent from the elevated to the commonplace or ridiculous in writing or speech; a sinking; anticlimax.
  • n. Synonyms Fustian, Turgidness, etc. See bombast.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. triteness or triviality of style
  • n. a change from a serious subject to a disappointing one
  • n. insincere pathos

Etymologies

Greek, depth, from bathus, deep.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Ancient Greek βάθος (bathos, "depth"). Used metaphorically from 1638 (Robert Sanderson). First used ironically by Pope (Bathos, 1727), in contrast to ὕψος (hypsos, "sublimity"). (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • Longinus's warning against bathos is a dangerous one for those who would take it too much to heart.

    On the Sublime

  • "'Frisco Kid's Story" (Aegis, 15 February 1895) is mawkish and sentimental, a lesson in bathos and in how not to handle dialect (that is, by employing an abundance of it).

    The woe of an aspiring genius.

  • Despite the rad profile, nest was as knee-deep in bathos and bourgeois denial as any other shelter mag.

    Home Alone

  • I think the correct term is "bathos" - an abrupt, unintended transition in style from the exalted to the commonplace, producing a ludicrous effect.

    politicalbetting.com

  • Blurb bathos is a killer, because it’s actually really fun and easy to be blurb bathetic in the same way it’s fun and easy to write a bathetic poem.

    About Reviews : Ange Mlinko : Harriet the Blog : The Poetry Foundation

  • In less skillful hands, the plot — and there is a good, strong plot — might have foundered in bathos, but Dean adroitly sticks to the high road; although she afflicts her characters with terminal cancer, Alzheimer’s, alcoholism, and adultery, these trials, rather than defining the people who suffer them, serve to reveal their fiber.

    New Fiction

  • Like Browning, he wrote too much to write well at all times, and if both poets were capable of the sublimest flights, they likewise descended to unimagined depths; but the fault of Wordsworth was perhaps the greater, because his bathos was the result of a deliberate and persistent attempt to enrich English poetry with prosaically versified incidents drawn at length from homely rural life.

    Early Reviews of English Poets

  • It insists that men should not mistake, as they are prone to mistake, their natural taste for the bathos for a relish for the sublime; and if statesmen, either [lvi] with their tongue in their cheek or through a generous impulsiveness, tell them their natural taste for the bathos is a relish for the sublime, there is the more need for culture to tell them the contrary.

    Culture and Anarchy

  • Drudge may have drawn a record number of visitors in October, but this kind of bathos may explain why the site's pull is not what it used to be.

    Drudge Flippant on Election Eve: Christopher Bateman

  • It's important to emphasize that this isn't some simpering "oh gosh, life sure was swell then" nostaliga piece -- his wisftulness is well tempered with the knowledge of how such feelings can easily lead to a pathetic bathos, sentimentalism or worse.

    Robot reviews: George Sprott | Robot 6 @ Comic Book Resources – Covering Comic Book News and Entertainment

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