Definitions

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

  • adj. Inspiring or deserving pity.
  • adj. Arousing contemptuous pity, as through ineptitude or inadequacy. See Synonyms at pathetic.
  • adj. Archaic Filled with pity or compassion.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. Feeling pity; merciful.
  • adj. So appalling or sad that one feels or should feel sorry for it; eliciting pity.
  • adj. Very small (of an amount or number).

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Full of pity; tender-hearted; compassionate; kind; merciful; sympathetic.
  • adj. Piteous; lamentable; eliciting compassion.
  • adj. To be pitied for littleness or meanness; miserable; paltry; contemptible; despicable.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Full of pity; tender; compassionate; having a feeling of sorrow and sympathy for the distressed.
  • Exciting or fitted to excite pity or compassion; miserable; deplorable; sad: as, a pitiful condition; a pitiful look.
  • To be pitied for its littleness or meanness; paltry; insignificant; contemptible; despicable.

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

  • adj. bad; unfortunate
  • adj. deserving or inciting pity
  • adj. inspiring mixed contempt and pity

Etymologies

From pity +‎ -ful. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • Consider This: Not only is this name hard to spell and pronounce, but it also seems to conjure up the word pitiful.

    5-Star Baby Name Advisor

  • Lipton looked across at Conroy, his expression pitiful.

    Sin City

  • They went around trying to get invited – how pitiful is that and even came with their own film crew.

    Tareq Salahi: We didn't 'party-crash' the White House

  • This model is in pitiful shape; it's warped with water damaged, faded from the sun, and set beneath a perpetual drip of water-runoff from the cliff above.

    April 28th, 2005

  • A thousand dogs, in pitiful chorus, wailed their ancient wrongs and claimed mercy from the unheeding stars.

    The Scorn of Women

  • The one thing that enlivened this trip was the appearance of naked Arabs, who would occasionally run along the banks of the canal, crying in pitiful tones, "bahkshish."

    Nellie Bly's Book: Around the World in Seventy-Two Days

  • I think that phrase pitiful giant is an awkward one.

    CNN Transcript Mar 17, 2009

  • We are now what another beknighted president, in another war, called a pitiful, helpless giant.

    Marc Kusnetz: It's The War, Stupid

  • At this point, you have to decide whether it's hilarious or just plain pitiful.

    July 2006

  • IMHO, calling the pitiful quartet of articles of questionable merit and doubtful applicability anything like a “scientific and intellectual program” verges awfully close on…well, on lying.

    The God Meter - The Panda's Thumb

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