Definition of hamartia in English:



  • A fatal flaw leading to the downfall of a tragic hero or heroine.

    ‘there's supposed to be an action that reveals the protagonist's hamartia’
    • ‘The critic Frank Kermode corrected our mistranslation of Aristotle's word hamartia (tragic flaw), suggesting that a more accurate and useful interpretation would be missing the mark.’
    • ‘Aristotle's idea that a tragic hero acts from a hamartia or mistake rather than evil intent was distorted into a theory of the so-called tragic flaw and was applied to describe foibles of Hamlet and Othello (jealousy).’
    • ‘The terms hamartia and hubris should become basic tools of your critical apparatus.’
    • ‘The tragic hero's reversal inspires pity if it is due not to wickedness of character but rather to some hamartia, by which Aristotle seems to mean some error in action, sometimes blameworthy and sometimes not.’
    • ‘Rather, her moment of hamartia comes when she decides to behave in a manner that she knows might destroy her social and familial standing.’



/həˈmärdēə/ /həˈmɑrdiə/


Late 18th century Greek, ‘fault, failure, guilt’; the term was used in Aristotle's Poetics with reference to ancient Greek tragedy.