• Denoting or relating to language used for general purposes of social interaction, rather than to convey information or ask questions. Utterances such as “hello, how are you?” and “nice morning, isn’t it?” are phatic.

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Example Sentences

“At my local tea shop, the staff greets everyone with a phatic, ‘Come have a cuppa!'”

“Sometimes a phatic greeting of ‘good morning’ or ‘how are you?’ is enough to brighten my day.”

“I never exchange more than a few phatic comments with my neighbors, but we’re still very friendly.”

Word Origin

Greek, 1920s

Why this word?

“Phatic” terms are those bits of pleasantries and small talk we utter throughout the day: “How’s it going?” “Good to see you.” “Have a good one!” The term was coined by Polish-born British anthropologist Bronisław Malinowski, stemming from the Greek “phatos,” meaning “spoken.” These phrases don’t carry a lot of meaning, but they make life run quite a bit smoother.

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