humble

adjective
hum·​ble | \ ˈhəm-bəl also chiefly Southern ˈəm- How to pronounce humble (audio) \
humbler\ ˈhəm-​b(ə-​)lər How to pronounce humble (audio) \; humblest\ ˈhəm-​b(ə-​)ləst How to pronounce humble (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 humble (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

Other Words from humble

Adjective

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

Verb

humbler \ ˈhəm-​b(ə-​)lər How to pronounce humble (audio) \ noun
humblingly \ ˈhəm-​b(ə-​)liŋ-​lē How to pronounce humble (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. See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective He’s really, really thoughtful and humble and genuine. Rania Aniftos, Billboard, 5 Aug. 2022 Walter Hinkle's niece, Madison Vaughn, said her 76-year-old uncle was both humble and good-natured in life, according to the Herald Leader. Abigail Adams, Peoplemag, 2 Aug. 2022 Often viewed as fiery and outspoken, Mayfield was humble and introspective in his first interview since the Browns dealt him to Carolina for a 2024 conditional fifth-round draft pick. Steve Reed, ajc, 12 July 2022 He’s really, really thoughtful and humble and genuine. Alyssa Bailey, ELLE, 12 July 2022 The sweet-voiced Jordan brought a humble and sensitive element to the performance, which the Generation Z audience, who slow-bopped on top of the bleachers, really seemed to respond to. Journal Sentinel, 26 June 2022 Before embracing the siren calls of those now clamoring for yet more aggressive policy tightening, Powell might do well to heed his own advice of needing to be humble and nimble, especially given today's highly fragile financial markets. Desmond Lachman For Cnn Business Perspectives, CNN, 16 June 2022 The humble and confident Bees are a team that has relentlessly pushed themselves to succeed on the most competitive playing field in the world. Chris Foster, Forbes, 8 June 2022 Tonight is the night to give thanks and be humble and grateful. Jenna Ortiz, The Arizona Republic, 2 June 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Like coach said, football will humble you real quick. Mark Inabinett | Minabinett@al.com, al, 18 May 2022 Alternately harrowing and hilarious, the book’s drug-consumption-per-page quotient is enough to humble Hunter S. Thompson and William S. Burroughs combined. Alan Light, SPIN, 5 Mar. 2022 The cheap deaths and dozen or so boss showdowns will humble you, but the stellar fix of early ’90s nostalgia will keep you glued until the very end. Joshua Khan, Wired, 26 Dec. 2021 Both books contain an abundance of stories featuring frustrated scientists who seem to live in their labs, who endure ferocious professional battles and who must humble themselves to raise funds for their work. Washington Post, 17 Dec. 2021 The Iron Bowl can humble fan bases and players and especially the coaches, but this one showed that maybe Auburn isn’t too far behind its in-state rival after all. Joseph Goodman | Jgoodman@al.com, al, 27 Nov. 2021 Though Michigan’s players and coaches dedicated only a few words to questions about Lombardi during the week, their desire to humble a player responsible for more than 300 yards and three touchdowns in a shocking upset by the Spartans was clear. Michael Cohen, Detroit Free Press, 18 Sep. 2021 For the past two weeks, Alabama’s coach has been trying to humble his team in preparation for the Gators. Joseph Goodman | Jgoodman@al.com, al, 15 Sep. 2021 If the 9/11 attacks were a failure of imagination by US authorities -- who would have thought a terror gang armed only with box cutters could humble a superpower? Stephen Collinson, CNN, 11 Sep. 2021 See More

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.

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

Learn More About humble

Time Traveler for humble

Time Traveler

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

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Dictionary Entries Near humble

humbird

humble

humble-bee

See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for humble

Last Updated

10 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Humble.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/humble. Accessed 15 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for humble

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.

More from Merriam-Webster on humble

Nglish: Translation of humble for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of humble for Arabic Speakers

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