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 These objects are but humble specks, lacking the spaghettifying suction strength of an actual dead star. Wired, "A Scientist's Tiny Black Hole Brings the Cosmos Into the Lab," 8 Nov. 2019 Even the humble eggroll got some respect, with a Hong Kong version made by hand and filled with shrimp. Mike Sutter, ExpressNews.com, "Review: Dim Sum Oriental Cuisine rises above San Antonio’s quiet Chinese restaurant scene," 7 Nov. 2019 But that humble bag has become one of my go-to pieces of gear. Bryan Rogala, Outside Online, "Why I've Used an Eagle Creek Suitcase for 12 Years," 6 Nov. 2019 Halloween Horror Nights found its humble beginnings in Orlando as a three-day spooky shindig in 1991. Patrick Connolly, orlandosentinel.com, "Universal: Halloween Horror Nights dates announced for 30th-anniversary event in 2020," 4 Nov. 2019 Super successful teams may need a loss to keep them humble. Ann Killion, SFChronicle.com, "Will these San Francisco 49ers ever lose? Should they?," 31 Oct. 2019 The welcoming aura at one of H-Town’s toniest Mexican restaurants is fostered by its humble executive chef, Hugo Ortega. Dwight Brown, Essence, "Indulge! Dine at Houston’s Best Restaurants," 31 Oct. 2019 From the deep-sea dwellers chomping on Cold War nuclear bomb particles to humble swimmers living in cave streams in Illinois, these crustaceous scavengers have adapted to all sorts of environments. Jason Daley, Smithsonian, "These Newly Discovered Shrimp Call a Whale Shark’s Mouth Home," 29 Oct. 2019 Now, for the first time, researchers have mapped where these humble invertebrates live, identifying wormy hot spots around the globe. Elizabeth Pennisi, Science | AAAS, "First global map of earthworms reveals which places are chock-full of them—and why," 24 Oct. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb One running theme of the series is the guests’ vocal eagerness to humble themselves before Beyoncé and her empire; DJ Khaled tells an anecdote that doubles as an ace performance of cozy obeisance. Troy Patterson, The New Yorker, "Four Shows at the Center of a Golden Age of Hip-Hop Television," 1 Nov. 2019 Lewis said the affair humbled him and allowed him to become a better man and a better husband. Washington Post, "‘Brazen, naked corruption’ gets SC sheriff 1 year in prison," 25 Oct. 2019 The passion and devotion of the Phillies fan base both inspired and humbled me daily. BostonGlobe.com, "PHILADELPHIA — Gabe Kapler took the fall for the Philadelphia Phillies.," 11 Oct. 2019 The passion and devotion of the Phillies fan base both inspired and humbled me daily. Rob Maaddi, Houston Chronicle, "Phillies fire manager Gabe Kapler in hyped season gone wrong," 10 Oct. 2019 Getting humbled It was the end of the dynasty, the return to mediocrity. Chris Solari, Detroit Free Press, "Michigan State football 2019 outlook: Turn back the clock to 2013 season," 25 Aug. 2019 That’s also humbled her to Hollywood’s ups and downs. Dave Quinn, PEOPLE.com, "Everything to Know About Stranger Things Star Maya Hawke, Daughter of Ethan Hawke & Uma Thurman," 3 July 2019 Very humbled and honored to be the head coach here. Dominique Yates, The Courier-Journal, "Everything Louisville football coach Scott Satterfield said at ACC Media Days 2019," 18 July 2019 Germany’s Deutsche Bank has been humbled and given up on its global ambitions. John Detrixhe, Quartz, "Low interest rates could be a “Blockbuster Video moment” for the world’s biggest banks," 3 Sep. 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

12 Nov 2019

Cite this Entry

“Humble.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/humbles. Accessed 21 November 2019.

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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

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