When describing rhetorical appeals, 'ethos' can become 'ethical,' and 'logos' can become 'logical.' But what about 'pathos'? The closest I can come up with is 'pathetic,' but some research tells me that using the word pathetic to mean 'relating to emotions' is an archaic definition. I was also considering using 'pathetical' to differentiate from the piteous connotation of 'pathetic'. Is there a more fitting word that I could use?

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    I always use pathetic. In the context of Aristotle's triad, logical and ethical do not exactly have their everyday meanings either, but put them all three together, and/or use them to modify proof or appeal, and they plainly and readily enough convey their triadic meanings to anyone who knows that triad. Jan 1, 2015 at 23:06
  • I think I'd just go for emotional
    – Jim
    Jan 2, 2015 at 0:38
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    In fact here is a link where emotional is used in that context. unm.edu/~exa10/The%20Rhetorical%20Appeals.htm
    – Jim
    Jan 2, 2015 at 0:47
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    Note that to most people (in the US, at least) "pathos" means a tragic situation, not simply "an appeal to emotion". So if your reader understands what you mean by "pathos" they would also presumably understand what you mean by "pathetic".
    – Hot Licks
    Jan 3, 2015 at 2:05
  • I'm inclined to agree. Your audience should hopefully either either understand your particular use of pathetic here, or at least you should be able to easily acquaint them with it.
    – Jon Hanna
    Jan 4, 2015 at 3:17

8 Answers 8


I'm reading The Rhetorical Tradition textbook and they've just used 'pathetical' in context with ethical and logical. It threw me off for a second, but it makes sense.

  • In the nearly 4 years since I asked this question, I have to say this most closely answers the question, and provides a pretty authoritative source for usage of the word in the right context. Thanks for the answer! Sep 13, 2019 at 18:17
  • Although, if you could provide an excerpt from the book using the word, I think this answer could be improved somewhat Sep 13, 2019 at 18:18

Yes, unfortunately, that is what "pathos" becomes, "pathetic".

It may have a more negative sound, but they both do mean the same thing: a show evoking pity and gloom.



  • showing empathy or ready comprehension of others' states; "a sensitive and empathetic school counselor"

or sympathetic may suggest the idea: (from TFD)

  • Of, expressing, feeling, or resulting from sympathy: a sympathetic glance.

  • characterised by, feeling, or showing sympathy; understanding

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    Interesting, but in the context of rhetorical appeals, these words don't really fit. Jan 2, 2015 at 1:12

Yes, "pathetic" would be an adjective from the noun "pathos" (L. suffering, sensation, and akin to paschein, to suffer), just as you have for "ethos" and "logos".

There is a link to the 'suffering' there in Passion also (L. passio- root of "pati", to suffer/submit)

  • unfortunately the word pathetic has moved its meaning a little.Pathos,to incite feeling or pity? maybe you will have to coin your own word..like Pathoical..or just keep Pathos as an adjective and noun eh? Jan 3, 2015 at 1:04


1: of or relating to the emotions

2: appealing to or expressing emotion the emotive use of language

Source: Merriam-Webster.

  • I added a link to the source of the language you use in your answer. In future answers at this site, please identify the source of any quoted language you use. Thanks!
    – Sven Yargs
    Mar 14, 2017 at 6:14
  • Has a connotation of "showing emotion"... even for the second definition, because which definition it is is ambiguous in most contexts
    – user378171
    Jul 21, 2020 at 0:16

How about "touching"? That is, the heart being deeply touched or moved.

  • This doesn't really work with the context of rhetorical appeals Jul 13, 2018 at 14:43
  • Pathos isn't necessarily effective, and that term isn't technical enough to be general
    – user378171
    Jul 21, 2020 at 0:20

The adjective form of the fourth device, Kairos, is "Kairotic". Perhaps Pathos could become "Pathotic".


I think that it should be "pathotic". It is a direct derivative of Pathos and no one can misread the word. It will, naturally, refer the reader to "pathos". Unfortunately, it's not in any dictionary, but. perhaps, it should be?


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