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From Middle English litargie, from Medieval Latin litargia, from Late Latin lēthārgia, borrowed from Ancient Greek ληθᾱργῐ́ᾱ (lēthārgíā, drowsiness), from λήθᾱργος (lḗthārgos, forgetful, lethargic) +‎ -ῐ́ᾱ (-íā, adjectival suffix).


  • IPA(key): /ˈlɛθ.ə(ɹ).d͡ʒi/
  • (file)


lethargy (countable and uncountable, plural lethargies)

  1. A state of extreme torpor or apathy, especially with lack of emotion, energy or enthusiasm; (loosely) sluggishness, laziness. [from 14th c.]
    • 1687, Francis Atterbury, An Answer to Some Considerations on the Spirit of Martin Luther and the Original of the Reformation at Oxford[1], page 42:
      Europe lay then under a deep lethargy.
    • 1834, L[etitia] E[lizabeth] L[andon], chapter XXVII, in Francesca Carrara. [], volume II, London: Richard Bentley, [], (successor to Henry Colburn), →OCLC, page 285:
      Gradually the darkened room seems to emerge from its shadows; familiar objects strike upon the senses—and memory is never so terribly distinct as on its first reviving from such momentary lethargy.
    • 1959 March, D. Bertram, “An old friend - the 9.7”, in Trains Illustrated, page 141:
      As already indicated, timekeeping is very poor. Point-to-point times are not kept, even with a clear road, and whilst fast running has never been a feature of the route because of the large number of junctions and speed restrictions, this Sunday night lethargy is hard to explain.
    • 1995 March 20, Bruce W. Nelan, “Crime and Punishment”, in Time[2]:
      Yakovlev, one of the architects of the reforms put in place by Mikhail Gorbachev, says he too is "amazed" at the government's lethargy.
    • 2008 May 9, Nick Fletcher, “Lethargic FTSE lifted by hopes of mining move”, in The Guardian[3]:
      The increase in mining stocks helped the FTSE 100 shake off some earlier lethargy and close 9.8 points higher at 6270.8, despite the disappointment of unchanged UK interest rates.
  2. (pathology) A condition characterized by extreme fatigue or drowsiness, deep unresponsiveness, or prolonged sleep patterns. [from 14th c.]
    • c. 1599, William Shakespeare, King Henry IV, Part 2:
      This Apoplexie is (as I take it) a kind of Lethargie, a sleeping of the blood, a horson Tingling.
    • 2003 October 20, Amanda Ripley, “At Last, the Pill for Men”, in Time[4]:
      So in order to avoid unpleasant side effects like lethargy and sexual dysfunction, most recent trials also gave men testosterone supplements.

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