humble

1 of 2

adjective

hum·​ble ˈhəm-bəl How to pronounce humble (audio)
 also chiefly Southern  ˈəm-
1
: not proud or haughty : not arrogant or assertive
2
: reflecting, expressing, or offered in a spirit of deference or submission
a humble apology
3
a
: ranking low in a hierarchy or scale : insignificant, unpretentious
b
: not costly or luxurious
a humble contraption
humbleness noun
humbly adverb

humble

2 of 2

verb

hum·​ble ˈhəm-bəl How to pronounce humble (audio)
 also chiefly Southern  ˈəm-
humbled; humbling ˈhəm-b(ə-)liŋ How to pronounce humble (audio)

transitive verb

1
: to make (someone) humble (see humble entry 1) in spirit or manner
2
: to destroy the power, independence, or prestige of
humbler noun
humblingly adverb

Did you know?

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. See More
Recent Examples on the Web
Adjective
Mostly this is the fault of the disintegrating barley, humblest of grains, though the beans (kidney) don’t help. Benjamin Dubow, Longreads, 20 Feb. 2024 Here’s how Asian American pastry chefs are making something new out of the humble legume. Emilia Petrarca, New York Times, 20 Feb. 2024 More:Hoosiers may be humble, but All-Star artists make sure Indiana's stories get their due From hats to handbags, these business partnerships showcase all the ways the NBA festivities can be paired with celebrity, fashion, food and entertainment. Alexandria Burris, The Indianapolis Star, 17 Feb. 2024 Tom Ford was one of the first designers to rethink the humble cowboy boot in his Autumn-Winter collection shown at London Fashion Week, 2014. Leah Dolan, CNN, 16 Feb. 2024 Though too humble to admit it, in many ways, Hollyday, Hansen and the entire restaurant team are setting the standard for restaurants seeking longevity with this three-prong approach and a commitment to attentive service. Detroit Free Press, 15 Feb. 2024 As much as our audiences want to have a tribute, for us, the actors, this was our humble way of saying goodbye. Sara Netzley, EW.com, 12 Feb. 2024 So here’s something the will foot the bill: the humble fish sandwich. Heidi Finley, Charlotte Observer, 13 Feb. 2024 Other advertisers double dipped by using the same ad in both the English and Spanish speaking broadcasts, like Michelob ULTRA’s ad featuring football legend Dan Marino and Inter Miami FC player Lionel Messi, soccer’s best player in history (in my humble opinion). Nelson Granados, Forbes, 12 Feb. 2024
Verb
This account has since been humbled by the memory of my in-box, which holds a much more extensive correspondence between me and Shortz. Anna Shechtman, The New Yorker, 18 Feb. 2024 The coincidences humbled me; suddenly, the clamp clenching my atrium loosened a notch. Jessica Amento, Los Angeles Times, 16 Feb. 2024 Christmas night’s 33-19 defeat to the Baltimore Ravens proved humbling, too, more so than a Week 18 loss to the Los Angeles Rams as starters rested or were pulled by halftime. Cam Inman, The Mercury News, 19 Jan. 2024 With that being said, we are humbled to be your Ambassadors for Record Store Day 2024. Thania Garcia, Variety, 12 Feb. 2024 To receive one Forbes Five-Star award is an honor, to receive two is a privilege, but to receive three is simply humbling. Demarco Williams, Forbes, 12 Feb. 2024 For Eaton, who spends most of his time parked in his driveway, the experience has been humbling, according to the paper. Brian Brant, Peoplemag, 12 Feb. 2024 Kansas City hung around early and only trailed by four points at the half, but did not score over the last two quarters on its way to a humbling 35-10 loss. Jeff Capellini, CBS News, 11 Feb. 2024 And to know Jason as my friend and brother in music is nothing short of humbling and electrifying all at the same time. Jessica Nicholson, Billboard, 7 Feb. 2024 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'humble.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

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

First Known Use

Adjective

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Verb

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of humble was in the 13th century

Dictionary Entries Near humble

Cite this Entry

“Humble.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/humble. Accessed 4 Mar. 2024.

Kids Definition

humble

1 of 2 adjective
hum·​ble ˈhəm-bəl How to pronounce humble (audio)
ˈəm-
humbler -b(ə-)lər How to pronounce humble (audio) ; humblest -b(ə-)ləst How to pronounce humble (audio)
1
: modest or meek in spirit or manner : not proud or bold
humble apology
2
: low in rank or status
a humble position
humbly adverb

humble

2 of 2 verb
humbled; humbling -b(ə-)liŋ How to pronounce humble (audio)
1
: to make humble in spirit or manner
2
: to destroy the power or influence of
humbled the enemy with a crushing attack
humbler noun

More from Merriam-Webster on humble

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!