“She thought he’d be heartbroken and was quite taken aback by his phlegmatic response.”

What is the best definition of phlegmatic?

Check your answer!

Choice A - Listless or lacking bodily energy
Choice B - Unharmonious or displeasing in quality
Choice C - Emotionless and not easily aroused
Choice D - Noncompliant or given to resisting control


Phlegmatic (adjective) – showing or expressing little emotion; not easily aroused

GRE pro tips:

Just as it appears, phlegmatic comes from the word phlegm – the thick mucus substance in the body. And, in its earliest usage (from medieval medicine), the term described people who had an abundance of mucus. As a result, such phlegmatic types were sluggish, cold, and a little dull. In those days, people with phlegmatic constitutions were thought to be unemotional and apathetic in temperament.

Today, the meaning is similar – although it has nothing to do with having excess mucus. Still, phlegmatic people are rather dull when it comes to showing or expressing emotion, in that they show very little. Phlegmatic types are not easily excited and express little emotion or passion. Since they’re difficult to arouse, they’d make great bodyguards or even snipers. 

Example sentences:

“As a principal advisor with a major wealth management firm, he projected a stolid, phlegmatic trustworthiness.”

“Although she claimed to be passionate about the cause, the delivery of her speech was incongruently phlegmatic.”