Etymology
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pitiful (adj.)

mid-14c., piteful, "merciful, compassionate" (implied in pitifully), from pity (n.) + -ful. Sense of "exciting or deserving pity" is from mid-15c.; that of "mean, wretched, contemptible, to be pitied for its littleness or meanness" is attested from 1580s. Related: Pitifulness.

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Definitions of pitiful

pitiful (adj.)
inspiring mixed contempt and pity;
pitiful exhibition of cowardice
Synonyms: pathetic / pitiable
pitiful (adj.)
bad; unfortunate;
pitiful (adj.)
deserving or inciting pity; "the shabby room struck her as extraordinarily pathetic"- Galsworthy;
a pitiful fate
Synonyms: hapless / miserable / misfortunate / pathetic / piteous / pitiable / poor / wretched
From wordnet.princeton.edu