humble

adjective
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

humble

verb
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

Adjective

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

Verb

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 This characterization is too humble, however, and woefully incomplete. Ephrat Livni, Quartz, "Senators demand records illuminating dark money ties to Supreme Court appointments," 12 Mar. 2020 And furthermore, a big fine is inappropriate for some humble struggling mechanics. Ezra Dyer, Car and Driver, "Diesel Brothers Exhaust Their Defense in Truck Pollution Case," 11 Mar. 2020 Centrists feel marginalized by the lack of attention their humble goals receive compared to the threats and fantasies of the radical wings. Garry Kasparov, The New York Review of Books, "A Popular Front to Stop Trump," 28 Jan. 2020 Its humble character, and perhaps even its less-than-immaculate appearance, reflects who Whitman was: the son of a carpenter with little education who exalted everyday people and places. Jane Margolies, New York Times, "Should Walt Whitman’s House Be Landmarked? It’s Complicated," 24 Dec. 2019 The couple, who arose from humble beginnings and are now in their 60s, had, over the years, taught themselves a great deal about interior design and art to complement their knowledge of construction. Nancy Hass, ELLE Decor, "This Candy-Colored Revivalist Mansion Outside Chicago Brings the Drama," 16 Oct. 2019 In fact, his humble beginnings make his experience on Yellowstone that much sweeter. Amanda Garrity, Good Housekeeping, "'Yellowstone' Actor Forrie J. Smith Reveals What It's Like to Work with Kevin Costner," 30 Aug. 2019 Staying humble isn’t hard for Swindell, who spent three years selling T-shirts on tours with Luke Bryan and every bit of his free time honing his songwriting craft. Andrew Jensen, Anchorage Daily News, "How State Fair headliner Cole Swindell went from selling T-shirts to hit country songs," 29 Aug. 2019 For the interior, Schindler describes her design approach as one that attempts to balance high and low—and centers on humble materials and forms. Samantha Weiss Hills, Curbed, "15 bedroom decor ideas to steal now," 19 Aug. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Promptly then, Job humbles himself before the Lord. Christian Wiman, Harper's magazine, "The Cancer Chair," 20 Jan. 2020 Letts’ veteran craftsmanship lends this part a needed believability that pays off when he’s humbled in the ride of a lifetime at the hands of his own machinery. Ben Flanagan | Bflanagan@al.com, al, "Forget the Oscars! Our favorite movie performances of 2019," 7 Feb. 2020 Johnson humbled Marino and his teammates in a 38-16 rout at the old Stanford Stadium. Bruce Jenkins, San Francisco Chronicle, "History of the 49ers," 30 Jan. 2020 Ovechkin stood a lowly, humbled stick carrier, with merely a career total of 698 goals. Kevin Paul Dupont, BostonGlobe.com, "Will Alex Ovechkin be the last to reach 700 goals?," 15 Feb. 2020 Denis Marcadet of Vendôme Associés, a search firm in Paris, remembers humbled financiers weeping for hours in his office during the subprime meltdown. The Economist, "Take me to a leader Corporate headhunters are more powerful than ever," 6 Feb. 2020 Citizen K is a worthy document of Russia’s recent history, but what makes it compelling drama is the spectacle of a one-percenter punished and humbled—a spectacle that in the United States still feels like a distant fantasy. David Klion, The New Republic, "Citizen K Captures the Rise and Fall of an Oligarch," 22 Jan. 2020 The eloquence and learning of her professors and fellow students awed and humbled my mother. Longreads, "Jersey Girl," 2 Jan. 2020 Quick Hits + Pac-12 basketball: The Hotline’s all-decade team (plus top player, coach). + Nuggets humbled on Christmas Day as Pelicans snap winning streak at 7 + Simone Biles named 2019 AP Female Athlete of the Year. Joe Nguyen, The Denver Post, "Peyton Manning, John Elway among finalists for NFL 100 all-time team," 27 Dec. 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

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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Statistics for humble

Last Updated

18 Mar 2020

Cite this Entry

“Humble.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/humble. Accessed 1 Apr. 2020.

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More Definitions for humble

humble

adjective
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

humble

verb
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

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.

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More from Merriam-Webster on humble

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for humble

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with humble

Spanish Central: Translation of humble

Nglish: Translation of humble for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of humble for Arabic Speakers

Comments on humble

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