humble

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

Essential Meaning of humble

1 : not proud : not thinking of yourself as better than other people Despite all his achievements, he has remained humble. He is very humble about his achievements. See More ExamplesShe is too humble to let praise go to her head. a very humble personHide
2 : given or said in a way that shows you do not think you are better than other people a humble request Please accept my humble apologies. See More Examples(sometimes humorous) In my humble opinion [=in my opinion], he is the most talented actor on the stage today. Her humble suggestion is that we review the data more carefully.Hide
3 : showing that you do not think of yourself as better than other people a humble attitude/manner

Full 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- How to pronounce humble (audio) \
humbled; humbling\ ˈhəm-​b(ə-​)liŋ How to pronounce humble (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

Adjective

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

Verb

humbler \ ˈhəm-​b(ə-​)lər How to pronounce humble (audio) \ noun
humblingly \ ˈhəm-​b(ə-​)liŋ-​lē How to pronounce humble (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 Vaca, who was born in Quito, Equador, came from humble beginnings and was one of six children. NBC News, 5 Oct. 2021 In July, Rock sat down with PEOPLE for an exclusive interview, reminiscing about his humble beginnings. Tristan Balagtas, PEOPLE.com, 4 Oct. 2021 John Dondero said his father was a great storyteller, but humble about his own accomplishments. Peter Hartlaub, San Francisco Chronicle, 23 July 2021 Actor Seth Schenall, who plays the enthusiastic teen named Martin, remains humble about his role in saving the day though. Marcus Jones, EW.com, 3 July 2021 By being community-minded and humble about a brand’s role as a participant and not an owner of groups and culture-shifts, businesses can build a lasting bond. Andrew Bateman, Forbes, 12 May 2021 Vent said Silla was a humble and nice man who was full of stories. BostonGlobe.com, 17 Apr. 2021 The ensuing fever never left him: From humble beginnings at the San Francisco Examiner, Hearst built an empire that eventually embraced 28 newspapers, a wire service, radio stations and more than a dozen magazines. John Anderson, WSJ, 23 Sep. 2021 The owners of Dave’s have come a long way since their more humble beginnings as a cash-only pop-up in a Los Angeles parking lot. Elena Kadvany, San Francisco Chronicle, 22 Sep. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Though Michigan’s players and coaches dedicated only a few words to questions about Lombardi during the week, their desire to humble a player responsible for more than 300 yards and three touchdowns in a shocking upset by the Spartans was clear. Michael Cohen, Detroit Free Press, 18 Sep. 2021 For the past two weeks, Alabama’s coach has been trying to humble his team in preparation for the Gators. Joseph Goodman | Jgoodman@al.com, al, 15 Sep. 2021 If the 9/11 attacks were a failure of imagination by US authorities -- who would have thought a terror gang armed only with box cutters could humble a superpower? Stephen Collinson, CNN, 11 Sep. 2021 The actress then joked that due to her daughter's privilege, the name situation might actually humble her a bit. Vanessa Etienne, PEOPLE.com, 29 July 2021 Soon, the lines between Thor and Blake began to blur, and eventually Thor became the real guy, and Blake a fiction invented by Odin to humble his arrogant son. Alan Sepinwall, Rolling Stone, 7 July 2021 But these are the 2020s, and there is no need for inconvenient facts to humble a public figure. Mike Finger, San Antonio Express-News, 11 May 2021 Vincent, who once sought a career as a minister and lived among peasants to humble himself, had desperately wanted to make art that reached beyond the cognoscenti and directly into the hearts of common people. New York Times, 14 Apr. 2021 Also in Group A, Luxembourg’s Gerson Rodrigues scored with five minutes remaining to humble the Irish, who remained winless in 10 games under coach Stephen Kenny. James Ellingworth, ajc, 27 Mar. 2021

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 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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Dictionary Entries Near humble

humbird

humble

humble-bee

See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for humble

Last Updated

9 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Humble.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/humble. Accessed 18 Oct. 2021.

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More Definitions for humble

humble

adjective
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

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.

More from Merriam-Webster on humble

Nglish: Translation of humble for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of humble for Arabic Speakers

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