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[pit-ee-uh s] /ˈpɪt i əs/
evoking or deserving pity; pathetic:
piteous cries for help.
Archaic. compassionate.
Origin of piteous
1250-1300; Middle English; replacing pitous < Old French < Medieval Latin pietōsus. See pity, -ous
Related forms
piteously, adverb
piteousness, noun
overpiteous, adjective
overpiteously, adverb
overpiteousness, noun
unpiteous, adjective
unpiteously, adverb
Can be confused
piteous, pitiable, pitiful, pitiless (see synonym study at pitiful)
1. affecting, moving, distressing, lamentable, woeful, sad, wretched, sorrowful. See pitiful. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for piteous
Historical Examples
  • From the shadow of a tree there moved one of those brazen and piteous she-ghosts that haunt the locality.

    Our Square and the People in It Samuel Hopkins Adams
  • Are none to be gentle and kind, none to be piteous and forgiving?

    The White Company Arthur Conan Doyle
  • Sorez placed his hand to his heart again and staggered back with a piteous appeal to Wilson.

    The Web of the Golden Spider Frederick Orin Bartlett
  • The poor fellow gave a piteous moan, but still did not stir.

    Rico and Wiseli Johanna Spyri
  • Finally someone was roused to shame and remorse at the piteous sight; he was washed, shaved, and decently clothed.

    Joan of Arc Laura E. Richards
  • He began shivering at this again, and his voice sank into a piteous quaver.

    In the Valley Harold Frederic
  • The noise of the fight came closer and closer, and the wounded crept in a piteous stream to us.

    A King's Comrade Charles Whistler
  • Stryker turned upon him an expression at once ludicrous, piteous and hateful.

    The Black Bag Louis Joseph Vance
  • There is nothing so piteous as the absence of recognition of the patient's best friends in cases of brain-disease.

    Brooke's Daughter Adeline Sergeant
  • She remained kneeling by the chair, looking up at him with a most piteous face.

British Dictionary definitions for piteous


exciting or deserving pity
(archaic) having or expressing pity
Derived Forms
piteously, adverb
piteousness, noun
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for piteous

c.1300, from Anglo-French pitous, Old French pitos "pious; merciful, compassionate, moved to pity; pitiful" (12c., Modern French piteux), from Medieval Latin pietosus "merciful, pitiful," in Vulgar Latin "dutiful," from Latin pietas "dutiful conduct, compassion" (see piety). Related: Piteously; piteousness.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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