Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • adj. Of or relating to phlegm; phlegmy.
  • adj. Having or suggesting a calm, sluggish temperament; unemotional.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. Not easily excited to action or passion; calm; sluggish.
  • adj. Abounding in phlegm; as, phlegmatic humors; a phlegmatic constitution.
  • adj. Generating, causing, or full of phlegm.
  • adj. Watery.
  • n. One who has a phlegmatic disposition.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Watery.
  • adj. Abounding in phlegm
  • adj. Generating or causing phlegm.
  • adj. Not easily excited to action or passion; cold; dull; sluggish; heavy.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Of the nature of phlegm; watery; aqueous: as, phlegmatic humors.
  • Generating or causing phlegm.
  • Abounding in phlegm; lymphatic; hence, cold; dull; sluggish; heavy; not easily excited to action or passion; apathetic; cool and self-restrained: as, a phlegmatic temperament. See temperament.
  • Synonyms Frigid, impassive, unsusceptible. See apathy.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adj. showing little emotion

Etymologies

Middle English fleumatik, from Old French fleumatique, from Late Latin phlegmaticus, full of phlegm, from Greek phlegmatikos, from phlegma, phlegmat-, heat, the humor phlegm, from phlegein, to burn; see bhel-1 in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Ancient Greek φλέγμα (phlégma, "phlegma") (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • He recalled the phlegmatic doctor, he recalled how he had grinned, that is, wrinkled up his nose when he saw him coming out of the wood almost arm-inarm with Baron Dönhof.

    The Torrents of Spring

  • His temperament exhibited all the varieties known to science: in the morning, before drinking, he was melancholy; in the middle of the day, choleric; and in the evening, phlegmatic, that is to say, he did nothing at that time but snore and grunt till he was put to bed.

    A Desperate Character

  • English, in our passion for daily excitement, might call her phlegmatic, but we should call her so unjustly.

    Tales of all countries

  • One of the psychologists in Solar Defence had termed Hunter phlegmatic, which is to say lazy and sluggish.

    Secret Mission Moluk

  • He recalled the phlegmatic doctor, he recalled how he had grinned, that is, wrinkled up his nose when he saw him coming out of the wood almost arm-in-arm with Baron Dönhof.

    The Torrents of Spring

  • If we cast a glance at the variety to be observed in the human character in respect to feeling, we find, first, some people who have very little excitability, who are called phlegmatic or indolent.

    On War — Volume 1

  • Phlegmatic: The phlegmatic is the hardest to pinpoint because she's the queen of blending in.

    It's my life...

  • The present Pakistani government is holding on by its fingernails and its response to the earthquake will probably be phlegmatic, which is, unfortunately, probably as much as it can manage.

    Outside The Beltway | OTB

  • Medical and popular opinion accused plants that grew underground of causing "phlegmatic" diseases, which ran the gamut from leprosy to hemorrhoids.

    More about Potatoes in France

  • As an aside, "phlegmatic" was often used in 19th century discourse as a nice way to say "lazy."

    "Beyond dirty campaigning... to something truly dishonorable."

Comments

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  • I never really thought of "sluggish" as a synonym or part of the definition for phlegmatic. Maybe because, for whatever reason, phlegmatic has a positive association for me. I tend to think of Ron Swanson when I hear "phlegmatic."

    March 6, 2012

  • Superficially he's a phlegmatic type, slouching round in old clothes, staring vacantly at the stars or at nothing at all, sitting in the center of a circle of students and scratching his head and grinning.

    Oscar James Campbell, Patterns for Living

    December 14, 2011

  • not stick shift
    not automatic
    my transmission
    is phlegmatic

    November 7, 2009

  • One of the four humors.

    May 9, 2008

  • Ohhhhh. I get it. Heehee.

    October 18, 2007

  • It's how I make stupid jokes, and then make clear that it's a stupid joke. Ahuh! Huhhuh!

    (see? You probably didn't know that was a laugh, did you? Yet I spelled it phonetically. What's a poor chained_bear to do?)

    October 18, 2007

  • Why the sudden penchant for weak upper-class-twit laugh? :-)

    October 18, 2007

  • I used this word in a conversation today. Yay me! (It was in reference to a colleague from England. Ahuh! Huhhuh! < -- weak upper-class-twit laugh.)

    October 18, 2007