humble

adjective
hum·​ble | \ˈhəm-bəl also chiefly Southern ˈəm- \
humbler\ ˈhəm-​b(ə-​)lər \; humblest\ ˈhəm-​b(ə-​)ləst \

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

humble

verb
hum·​ble | \ˈhəm-bəl also chiefly Southern ˈəm- \
humbled; humbling\ ˈhəm-​b(ə-​)liŋ \

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

Adjective

humbleness \ ˈhəm-​bəl-​nəs \ noun
humbly \ ˈhəm-​blē \ adverb

Verb

humbler \ ˈhəm-​b(ə-​)lər \ noun
humblingly \ ˈhəm-​b(ə-​)liŋ-​lē \ 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

Yet, according to HeadCount spokesman Aaron Ghitelman, that number is just a humble estimate. Victoria Rodriguez, Seventeen, "How To Register To Vote Online," 25 Sep. 2018 In a series of Instagram posts over Labor Day weekend, Kylie took fans on a revealing tour of her not-so-humble abode. Dan Barna, Teen Vogue, "Kylie Jenner Just Gave Fans a Tour of Her Hidden Hills Mansion," 4 Sep. 2018 The rehearsal room is just a blank, humble space full of energetic artists. Madeline Mitchell, Cincinnati.com, "Pink Floyd's 'The Wall' was turned into an opera and it's making its American debut in Cincinnati," 13 July 2018 Even humble kitchenware speaks to the enduring importance of the tree of life in the Armenian household. Ryan P. Smith, Smithsonian, "Armenia’s “Tree of Life” Tradition Took Root Thousands of Years Ago, and Has Only Grown Since," 12 July 2018 Morse’s humble 8086 instruction set still lies at the heart of nearly every modern PC CPU, from the Opteron to the Athlon to the Core 2 Quad. Benj Edwards, PCWorld, "Birth of a standard: The Intel 8086 microprocessor turns 40 today," 8 June 2018 Many things have to happen before humble Waukegan Municipal Beach can turn into the North Shore’s version of Chicago’s Oak Street or North Avenue beaches. Dan Moran, Lake County News-Sun, "Moran: Waukegan trucks in 700 tons of sand to fill giant, germy beach puddle," 1 June 2018 Balenciaga’s creative director, Demna Gvasalia, has quite the reputation for stepping into his playful side by riffing on the humble with the label’s designs. Ashley Hoffman, Time, "Balenciaga Is Trolling Everyone With a $755 'Plastic Bin' Shirt," 13 Apr. 2018 Upbeat, pleasant and at times self-deprecating, Johnson-Leipold is part of the legendary Johnson family, generations of which have built a global consumer products powerhouse from humble beginnings in Racine. Joe Taschler, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Business Leader of the Year Helen Johnson-Leipold leads big parts of the Johnson family business," 18 May 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Liverpool youngster Trent Alexander-Arnold has insisted he isn't worried about coming up against superstar Cristiano Ronaldo in the Champions League final, because he's already been humbled by another player. SI.com, "Alexander-Arnold Reveals Going Up Against One Player Means He's Not Afraid of Cristiano Ronaldo," 22 May 2018 Perhaps he'd been sent to carry his own message, campaigning for an idea that the greatest strength lies in humbling ourselves before one another. Michael Paterniti, GQ, "Jimmy Carter for Higher Office," 26 June 2018 The two have already been humbled by the support they’ve been given. Elliot Hughes, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Here's how you can help a Vietnam War veteran who became paralyzed after falling down stairs," 3 July 2018 In that single interaction, the doll is unmoved but our narrator is humbled. Sadia Hassan, Longreads, "Silence is a Lonely Country: A Prayer in Twelve Parts," 13 July 2018 England were humbled in South Africa, France were bloodied in New Zealand and Ireland went down in Australia last weekend. CNN, "Rugby's southern hemisphere sides strike first blows," 11 June 2018 Correa, Didi, Segura, we’re all doing big things this year overall, so to be starting, I’m truly humbled. Eduardo A. Encina, baltimoresun.com, "As trade talk swirls around him, Orioles' Manny Machado elected to start All-Star Game," 8 July 2018 Tragedies like these unfortunately catapult people into becoming activists, and we are humbled to share the White family's crusade for answers in Sugar Town. Kimberly Nordyke, The Hollywood Reporter, "Investigation Discovery Explores Controversial Death of Black Man While in Police Custody (Exclusive)," 26 June 2018 Even Belichick, the greatest of his era, perhaps the greatest ever, was humbled by his failures in Cleveland. Zak Keefer, Indianapolis Star, "Has expected Colts coach Josh McDaniels learned from his failures in Denver?," 17 Jan. 2018

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

Adjective

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Verb

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for humble

Adjective

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

Verb

see humble entry 1

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Statistics for humble

Last Updated

12 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for humble

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

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More Definitions for humble

humble

adjective

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

humble

verb

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

humble

adjective
hum·​ble | \ˈhəm-bəl \
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

humble

verb
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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Comments on humble

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