While trying to get more information for my previous question, I found several different definitions for the terms "pathology" and "pathological." While under normal circumstances I'd be inclined to say the latter stems from the former, there seems to be heavy connotation where terms such as "pathological liar" are concerned.

One of the definitions at dictionary.com states:

Caused by or evidencing a mentally disturbed condition

Seems a bit vague, to me. Can anyone clarify this?

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Related info from Wikipedia: The word pathology is from Ancient Greek πάθος, pathos, "feeling, suffering"; and -λογία, -logia, "the study of". Pathologization, to pathologize, refers to the process of defining a condition or behavior as pathological, e.g. pathological gambling. $\endgroup$
    – BenCole
    Jan 25, 2013 at 21:42

1 Answer 1


I think the answer can actually be found in the Dictionary.com link you cite:

-ological; suffix; used to form adjectives; belonging or relating to a particular type of scientific study; e.g. biological, technological

And (taken from Wikipedia):

The word pathology is from Ancient Greek πάθος, pathos, "feeling, suffering"; and -λογία, -logia, "the study of".

So pathological would be:

an adjective describing a thing that belongs or relates to suffering or the feeling of suffering.

(literally translated, of course)

So we can see that it's not just disease-related (suffering) but also mental health-related (feeling of suffering).

  • $\begingroup$ Suffering or the feeling of suffering... So in the context of "pathological gambler," it would be someone who doesn't enjoy gambling anymore - just can't help themselves from gambling? $\endgroup$
    – LitheOhm
    Jan 28, 2013 at 19:45
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I believe so, yes. Similar to, or the same as, the difference between an (ignorable) impulse and a compulsion. (They may still get some enjoyment from gambling, but it's not something they have control over anymore). $\endgroup$
    – BenCole
    Jan 28, 2013 at 19:49

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.