hum·​ble | \ ˈhəm-bəl also chiefly Southern ˈəm- How to pronounce humble (audio) \
humbler\ ˈhəm-​b(ə-​)lər How to pronounce humbler (audio) \; humblest\ ˈhəm-​b(ə-​)ləst How to pronounce humblest (audio) \

Definition of humble

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : not proud or haughty : not arrogant or assertive
2 : reflecting, expressing, or offered in a spirit of deference or submission a humble apology
3a : ranking low in a hierarchy or scale : insignificant, unpretentious
b : not costly or luxurious a humble contraption


hum·​ble | \ ˈhəm-bəl also chiefly Southern ˈəm- How to pronounce humble (audio) \
humbled; humbling\ ˈhəm-​b(ə-​)liŋ How to pronounce humbling (audio) \

Definition of humble (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to make (someone) humble (see humble entry 1) in spirit or manner
2 : to destroy the power, independence, or prestige of

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Other Words from humble


humbleness \ ˈhəm-​bəl-​nəs How to pronounce humbleness (audio) \ noun
humbly \ ˈhəm-​blē How to pronounce humbly (audio) \ adverb


humbler \ ˈhəm-​b(ə-​)lər How to pronounce humbler (audio) \ noun
humblingly \ ˈhəm-​b(ə-​)liŋ-​lē How to pronounce humblingly (audio) \ adverb

Humility: Its Use and Meaning

Humility means “the state of being humble.” Both it and humble have their origin in the Latin word humilis, meaning "low."

Humble can be used to describe what is ranked low by others, as in "persons of humble origins." People also use the word of themselves and things associated with themselves; if you describe yourself as "but a humble editor" or refer to your home as your "humble abode," you are saying that neither you nor your home is very impressive.

Like this latter use of humble, the kind of lowness expressed in the word humility is typically one chosen by oneself. Here are some examples of humility in use:

When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.
— Proverbs 11:2

A sudden humility descended upon the King. He felt, as so many men were to feel in similar circumstances in ages to come, as though he were a child looking eagerly for guidance to an all-wise master—a child, moreover, handicapped by water on the brain, feet three sizes too large for him, and hands consisting mainly of thumbs.
— P. G. Wodehouse, The Clicking of Cuthbert, 1922

Eating grits and fatback for breakfast and washing up every morning in cold water from a hydrant in the backyard helped one learn humility and humanity.
— Julius Lester, Falling Pieces of Broken Sky, 1990

I realize now that she had an awareness of the nature of the order of life, and of the necessity of living with and respecting that order. With this respect comes a necessary humility that we, with our early-21st-century chutzpah, lack at our peril.
— Bill Joy, Wired, April 2000

Who has not gazed at the night sky, mouth slightly agape? The experience is so common, its effects so uniform, that a standard vocabulary has evolved to describe it. Invariably we speak of the profound humility we feel before the enormity of the universe. We are as bits of dust in a spectacle whose scope beggars the imagination, whose secrets make a mockery of reason.
— Edwin Dobb, Harper's, February 1995

If leadership has a secret sauce, it may well be humility. A humble boss understands that there are things he doesn't know. He listens: not only to the other bigwigs in Davos, but also to the kind of people who don't get invited, such as his customers.
The Economist, 26 Jan. 2013

For many, the lowness in both humility and humble is something worth cultivating.

Examples of humble in a Sentence

Adjective Humble though it may be, and about as glamorous as a galosh, it is a fish that has shaped the political and social history of Europe like no other, with the possible exception of cod. — R. W. Apple, Jr., New York Times, 30 Oct. 2002 She would not come closer to me, as much as I thought she wished to, hungering not for anything like love but for plain, humble succor. — Chang-rae Lee, A Gesture Life, 1999 Women are the organizing soft-centered socialists, the nice people, the sugar-and-spice lot, identifying with the poor and humble; men are snips and snails and puppy-dog tails, and rampant, selfish, greedy capitalists. — Fay Weldon, Harper's, May 1998 Despite all his achievements, he has remained humble. He is very humble about his achievements. She is too humble to let praise go to her head. Please accept my humble apologies. Her humble suggestion is that we review the data more carefully. He comes from a humble background. She's not ashamed of her humble beginnings. Verb Cuba's reliance on tourism is a somewhat humbling turn for the revolution, which has long prided itself on producing topflight doctors and teachers—not concierges. — Tim Padgett, Time, 22 Dec. 2003 … audiences loved to see villains punished and arrogant young men humbled, they did not want to fidget and squirm through mea culpas before the final scene. — Elaine Showalter, Civilization, April/May 1999 It frightened and humbled him but also made him feel darkly charmed. — Don DeLillo, Mao II, 1991 Her success has humbled her critics. Last year's champion was humbled by an unknown newcomer.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective The series, according to Netflix, will chart Selena's rise from her humble Texas beginnings to her superstar status. Sandra Gonzalez, CNN, "'Selena: The Series' will debut in December," 6 Oct. 2020 Harvey Fauria, a VIA Metropolitan Transit driver remembered by colleagues as a humble man with an impressive driving record, has become the first VIA operator to die of COVID-19. Bruce Selcraig,, "First VIA driver to die of the coronavirus was a humble man with ‘a smile bigger than life’," 15 Sep. 2020 These days, though, the silhouette has departed from its humble origins. WSJ, "Bucket Hats Aren’t Just for Summer Anymore," 12 Sep. 2020 Creamier than gazpacho and with less than half the ingredients, salmorejo is no less flavorful despite its humble origins. TheWeek, "Spanish chilled tomato soup is half the work of gazpacho, with all the flavor," 16 Aug. 2020 When Wayne landed in prison in 2014 on drug charges, Floyd visited him frequently, urging him to stay humble and retrieving a $20,000 advance owed Wayne from an independent Houston label. Rick Jervis, USA TODAY, "'You shook the world, Big Floyd:' George Floyd remembered for mentoring young men in Houston's Third Ward," 8 June 2020 Born in Mexico and raised in Edinburg, Texas, Villarreal shared the humble beginnings that led him to become an icon of Latin music in Houston. Sonia Ramirez, Houston Chronicle, "Talking Menudo and Selena with a longstanding East End record shop owner," 5 Oct. 2020 While Peter Meijer does not come from humble beginnings, his grandfather did. Dave Boucher, Detroit Free Press, "More than a name: Peter Meijer faces Hillary Scholten in competitive west Michigan race," 2 Oct. 2020 Mary Lillian Josephine Brooks came from humble beginnings. New York Times, "Lillian Brown, Makeup Artist to Nine Presidents, Dies at 106," 29 Sep. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Critics meanwhile argue that Trump’s lack of electoral, policy or military leadership has crippled his ability to govern, to respect and defend democratic norms, and to humble himself to public service. Washington Post, "How Trump has turned the presidency into an arm of his own business," 16 Oct. 2020 To recite the history of Winged Foot is to parade through a veritable vocabulary list of mishaps and misreads — a mashup of bad things that happen to good people when a golf course isn't set up so much to identify the best player as to humble him. Eddie Pells, Star Tribune, "Golfers, give thanks! How Winged Foot gifted us the mulligan," 16 Sep. 2020 There is no class divide on the trails, no wealth or poverty—just PUDs that humble us all. Nicholas Kristof, National Geographic, "America’s neglected hiking trails are more popular than ever—but they’re struggling," 8 Sep. 2020 How can humble and passion be in the same sentence? Star Tribune, "Readers Write: America and progress, Trump, mask messaging," 31 July 2020 Disney, worth nearly $200 billion, has been similarly humbled. Julia Horowitz, CNN, "Some companies are part of the coronavirus economy. The rest are in trouble," 12 May 2020 Everyone at Ars is truly humbled by your support this week! Ken Fisher, Ars Technica, "You asked, we answered: Free wallpapers, plus a subscription update!," 2 Apr. 2020 Bjork, 23, has been humbled by two years of shoulder injuries, his days as a Notre Dame star seeming long ago., "began to raise his stick, thinking he had put the Bruins ahead by snapping home a one-timer. When he saw Islanders netminder," 21 Dec. 2019 Last October, Wyoming humbled the Rams in Fort Collins with a true freshman signal-caller. Sean Keeler, The Denver Post, "Keeler: Mike Bobo just became the Clay Helton of the Mountain West Conference," 23 Nov. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'humble.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of humble


13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for humble

Adjective and Verb

Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin humilis low, humble, from humus earth; akin to Greek chthōn earth, chamai on the ground

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Time Traveler for humble

Time Traveler

The first known use of humble was in the 13th century

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Statistics for humble

Last Updated

20 Oct 2020

Cite this Entry

“Humble.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 29 Oct. 2020.

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More Definitions for humble


How to pronounce humble (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of humble

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: not proud : not thinking of yourself as better than other people
: given or said in a way that shows you do not think you are better than other people
: showing that you do not think of yourself as better than other people


How to pronounce humble (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of humble (Entry 2 of 2)

: to make (someone) feel less important or proud : to make (someone) humble
: to easily defeat (someone or something) in a way that is surprising or not expected


hum·​ble | \ ˈhəm-bəl How to pronounce humble (audio) \
humbler; humblest

Kids Definition of humble

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : not regarding others as inferior : not overly proud : modest She is humble despite her great success.
2 : expressed in a way that does not show too much pride humble apologies
3 : low in rank or condition They are people of humble origin.

Other Words from humble

humbly \ -​blē \ adverb


humbled; humbling

Kids Definition of humble (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : to make modest The failure humbled him.
2 : to easily and unexpectedly defeat Our surprise attack humbled the enemy.

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