Hamartia: From the Greek for “error,” an error in judgment made by a tragic hero that brings about the suffering, downfall, and often death of that hero. The term is often used synonymously with tragic flaw, but this usage is not strictly correct; the error involved in hamartia need not stem from an inherent character trait, whether conventionally negative (e.g., hubris) or positive (e.g., courage), but may instead result from other sources, such as an accident or a lack of crucial knowledge regarding a situation. Thus, although the hamartia may and often does result from a tragic flaw, the two terms are not technically equivalent.
EXAMPLE: Oedipus’s hubris — apparent to the reader from the prologue of Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex (c. 430 B.C.), where he crows “Here I am myself— / you all know me, the world knows my fame: / I am Oedipus” — leads to his downfall, in which he blinds and banishes himself after realizing that he unwittingly killed his father and married his mother.