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

Friends and family have described Hausknecht as a humble and generous man who was adored by his patients, volunteered in his community and cared about the environment. Fox News, "Police: Suspect in Bush's doctor's death killed himself," 3 Aug. 2018 Beauty Products 14 Slides In my humble opinion, a towel can make or break a relaxing bathing experience. Allure, "14 Soft, Fluffy Bath Towels That Feel as Luxurious as They Look," 26 Mar. 2019 In my humble opinion, there are a few levels to this lip balm thing. Tiffany Dodson, SELF, "I Never Leave the House Without This Game-Changing Cheek and Lip Tint," 24 Mar. 2019 This is, in my humble opinion, the best celebrity Christmas TV special of all time. Liz Arcury, Marie Claire, "The 8 Best Celebrity Holiday Specials Ever," 29 Nov. 2018 In my humble opinion, Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine have higher ceilings than the aforementioned players. K.c. Johnson, chicagotribune.com, "Bulls Q&A: Is Wendell Carter Jr. the right pick? Will Zach LaVine be re-signed?," 27 June 2018 As a result, the still-humble cafe and pie shop has become a must-stop destination for many travelers visiting the Cape, and the pies are available for order online to be shipped nationwide. Larry Olmsted, USA TODAY, "Try Oprah's favorite pie in Cape Cod," 22 May 2018 There was the erudite-but-humble professor next door and upstairs. Maria Shine Stewart, cleveland.com, "Open your windows, open your hearts: Sun Messages," 28 Apr. 2018 The ever-humble Hoda Kotb took practicality to a whole new level at the TIME 100 Gala Tuesday night. Meghan Overdeep, Southern Living, "How About That: Hoda Kotb Used a Ziploc Bag as a Purse on the Red Carpet," 27 Apr. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Any flickering hope that LeBron James joining the Los Angeles Lakers would humble, or at least quiet, Lonzo’s carnival barker father, LaVar, has been doused the past few days. Nancy Armour, USA TODAY, "LaVar Ball's latest bluster shows Los Angeles Lakers need to trade Lonzo Ball," 5 July 2018 Brianna, a high honor student, was always humbled when recognized throughout her life for her academic and athletic excellence. courant.com, "Brianna H. Mailloux," 24 Apr. 2018 We are humbled by the outpour of Cleveland interest and support. Yadi Rodriguez, cleveland.com, "Artisan Anthony's withdraws from Best Soup contest, George's Kitchen's chicken noodle holds top spot in poll," 19 Mar. 2018 That's the same Buckeye defense that humbled Sam Darnold, who was 26-of-45 passing for 356 yards. Terry Pluto, cleveland.com, "Cleveland Browns: Debating Baker Mayfield, talking Jarvis Landry -- Terry Pluto (video)," 15 Apr. 2018 Adrian Beltre enjoys 'humbling' moment with hit No. Jeff Wilson, star-telegram, "Injuries to Odor, Fister give opening to Profar, Colon," 10 Apr. 2018 Carrozzini’s wife Bee played the proud partner, his mother-in-law Anna Wintour was out to support, and his aunt Carla seemed humbled by the love in the room. Lilah Ramzi, Vogue, "The Late Franca Sozzani Continues to Be Celebrated With a New Book and a Charitable Auction," 12 Feb. 2019 Ramchand said she is humbled and encouraged by the decision. Victoria Cheyne, Houston Chronicle, "UH dean appointed provost of the University of Missouri," 22 June 2018 Brown said Monday he was humbled by the nomination but wasn't deserving of the trophy. Helene Elliott, latimes.com, "What we learned from the Kings' 3-0 victory over Calgary on Monday," 27 Mar. 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

14 May 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 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

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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