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


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


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


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 The story of a black Georgia couple slain by a white man who approached them at their humble church, Rising Daughter Baptist, has been riddled with multiple theories, including one that their killings were racially motivated, for the last 35 years. Stephanie Toone, ajc, "What to know about the murders of Harold and Thelma Swain," 23 May 2020 The three-time NFL Most Valuable Player emerged from relatively humble beginnings to make 11 Pro Bowls, lead the team to two Super Bowls and win one of them. Jr Radcliffe, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "50 in 50: Desmond Howard's dagger helps the Packers win Super Bowl XXXI," 22 May 2020 CNN Business' John Sarlin spoke to Yuan about Zoom's humble beginnings and meteoric rise. Allison Morrow, CNN, "Zuck weighs in on WFH, and 4 other business stories you need to read today," 21 May 2020 His competitive drive has pushed him to elevate his game rapidly and his family has done a great job of keeping him grounded and humble. Zach Osterman, The Indianapolis Star, "Khristian Lander makes it official, gives IU basketball significant boost for 2020," 18 May 2020 But that doesn’t mean we humble PC gamers can’t glean information from Ampere’s AI-centric reveal. Brad Chacos, PCWorld, "Nvidia's bleeding-edge Ampere GPU architecture revealed: 5 things PC gamers need to know," 14 May 2020 Stendhal takes a vain young man from humble beginnings and creates the kind of anti-hero that is popular on TV today. Donna Bulseco, WSJ, "Essential Historical Fiction for Europhiles," 13 May 2020 The tool that has made decanting fun—and frankly, possible—is a humble funnel, which directs all of the small stuff, prone to scattering, directly to its final destination. Sarah Jampel, Bon Appétit, "If You're Buying in Bulk, You Could Probably Use a Kitchen Funnel," 12 May 2020 In fact, Trump entrusts his taxes and planning to a tiny, secretive team of CPAs who have operated at various times from humble quarters in Queens and two Long Island office parks. Peter Elkind, ProPublica, "Meet the Shadowy Accountants Who Do Trump’s Taxes and Help Him Seem Richer Than He Is," 8 May 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb For the most part, folks were thankful and humbled. Shawn Windsor, Detroit Free Press, "In flying over Michigan, Blue Angels send jet fuel through our souls," 12 May 2020 The pandemic and the economic disaster it’s instigated have excelled at humbling San Antonio, exposing just how many workers and their families live from measly paycheck to measly paycheck. Greg Jefferson,, "Jefferson: $270 million in stimulus aid won’t plug holes in San Antonio budget," 8 May 2020 Ruppelt told the judge he was humbled and ashamed to be appearing as the defendant after 20 years of representing clients facing sentencing. Bruce Vielmetti, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Lawyer who told client he could bribe prosecutor, judge for $30,000 avoids prison," 8 May 2020 Because that’s just amazing, and I’m just humbled and honored to be here with all these great, great winners, and people, and you, and Jeff. Dalton Ross,, "Ben Driebergen wants to prove he's not just a 'lucky twist guy' in Survivor: Winners at War," 3 Feb. 2020 He was humbled by his latest induction into the Broward County Sports Hall of Fame. Emmett Hall,, "Pompano Piranhas coach Jesse Vassallo inducted into Broward County Sports Hall of Fame," 26 Nov. 2019 In my role as producer, I am truly humbled everyday by everyone who works tirelessly to make TV magic. Katherine J. Igoe, Marie Claire, "Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman React Perfectly to Rumors of 'Big Little Lies' Director Drama," 28 July 2019 Compiling the responses this week has been joyous, devastating, humbling, thought-provoking and, most of all, inspiring. Christopher Wynn, Dallas News, "‘The News’ arts staff asked North Texas creatives to tell us how they’re coping and making art now," 5 Apr. 2020 Before Amazon and online shopping humbled the big-box retailers, Black Friday was a family tradition for millions of Americans, many of whom camped outside Walmarts and Best Buys. Christopher Maag, USA TODAY, "New Jersey residents camp out all night for coronavirus tests: 'What choice do we have?'," 25 Mar. 2020

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


13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


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

27 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Humble.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Jun. 2020.

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More Definitions for humble


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


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


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


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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