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

One of my personal favorite foods for seasonal eating is the humble sweet potato. Joy Bauer, Ms, Woman's Day, "Nutrition Expert Joy Bauer's Tips for Eating Healthy on a Budget," 23 Jan. 2019 In one snake's humble opinion, the song is a transition number, an outlier that perhaps didn't belong on this album. Rebecca Farley, refinery29.com, "In Washington, D.C., Taylor Swift Finally Performed "So It Goes"," 11 July 2018 Hawaiian Airlines From its humble beginnings as an island puddle-jumper, Hawaiian is now girdling half the globe with New York-Honolulu nonstops and flights from its hub to Asia, Australia, New Zealand, and Tahiti. Barbara Peterson, Condé Nast Traveler, "The Best U.S. Airlines: 2018 Readers' Choice Awards," 9 Oct. 2018 Not so for your humble critics!) Of course, early reviewers aren’t completely isolated from other players. Kyle Orland, Ars Technica, "Observations and lessons from two decades of writing about video games," 25 Nov. 2018 If that can keep you humble, don't be scared and jump in. Mark Z. Barabak, latimes.com, "L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti on running for president, not running and his favorite jazz pianists," 14 Apr. 2018 Inside is no less humble, and restaurants and bars often feel rich and handsome with dark finishes, plush chairs, and slick views. Keith Flanagan, Condé Nast Traveler, "35 Best Hotels in Tokyo," 28 Feb. 2018 Handcrafted, American-made, timeless, humble, familial, utilitarian and whimsical, these offerings seemed to be the perfect material incarnation of my notion of holiday spirit, all yummy goodness and light. Sally Singer, Vogue, "10 Holiday Gifts That Dazzle, Then Largely Disappear," 29 Nov. 2018 And high fashion hasn’t given up on garnering the same kind of ubiquity for the humble, sad man sandal. Liz Raiss, GQ, "This Summer's Best Sandals Got the Big Ugly Sneaker Treatment," 4 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Having such a 90's icon is something that Thomas is very humbled by. Chuck Dauphin, Billboard, "Inside Silverado Records' Against-the-Grain Approach in Radio-Loving Nashville," 26 Mar. 2018 But his no-nonsense, hands-on training regimen transformed the Continental Army into a skilled fighting force that humbled the British when the Americans emerged from their winter cantonment with the decisive triumph at Monmouth. Peter Cozzens, WSJ, "‘Valley Forge’ Review: In the Bleak Midwinter," 21 Dec. 2018 This would be humbling for a proud man like Mr. Erdogan to accept, but the irony is that linking to the dollar would be his best protection against the unpredictable policies of Mr. Trump. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "A Lifeline for Turkey," 12 Aug. 2018 Argenta said she was humbled because Halkias, a younger teacher, nominated her. Carole Carlson, Post-Tribune, "Salk educator meshes teaching and advocacy," 31 May 2018 We were continuously humbled by how enthusiastic people were to host us, and this generosity saved us roughly $7,000 in housing costs. Alexandra Brown, SELF, "7 Steps I Took to Afford Taking a Year Off to Travel the World," 21 Nov. 2018 Carson is forced to retire and passes the torch to a humbled Thomas. Tom Fitzgerald And Lorenzo Marquez, Town & Country, "The 10 Best Downton Abbey Episodes," 12 Sep. 2018 But after an awful outing on May 24, a humbled Hernandez went to Stottlemyre and asked for help. Ryan Divish, The Seattle Times, "Twitter mailbag: Will Felix Hernandez pitch in the postseason if the Mariners make it? Cano to first base? And Magnum P.I.?," 9 July 2018 After cruising to a 1-0 lead over the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference first-round series, the Sixers were humbled at home in a Game 2 loss. Keith Pompey, Philly.com, "Sixers, returning home for Game 5, look to close out series vs. Heat," 23 Apr. 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 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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Statistics for humble

Last Updated

5 Feb 2019

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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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More from Merriam-Webster on humble

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with humble

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for 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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