The nickname for Tchaikovsky's penultimate and perhaps best-known symphony is Symphonie Pathétique, which might sound funny to English speakers because the second word is related to our word pathetic. It's from a French word also meaning "evoking pity", but that's actually a mistranslation of Pateticheskaya, a Russian name meaning "passionate" that was specifically chosen by Tchaikovsky to convey how proud he was of the work he put in to create it. After his death, it was borrowed into French as pathétique, which was similar but overall a different word. Beethoven's eighth piano sonata is also often referred to as Sonata Pathétique. This name was intentionally chosen by his publisher (with Beethoven's approval), who was said to be moved by the piece's "tragic sonorities".
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a senior studying government and linguistics at Harvard University, where I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy trivia, politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, art history, and law.