humility

noun
hu·mil·i·ty | \ hyü-ˈmi-lə-tē , yü- \

Definition of humility 

: freedom from pride or arrogance : the quality or state of being humble accepted the honor with humility The ordeal taught her humility.

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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 humility in a Sentence

He accepted the honor with humility. The ordeal taught her humility.

Recent Examples on the Web

By Tuesday, Thailand was jubilantly celebrating the rescue of all 13, an audacious undertaking that swelled national pride — but also gratitude and humility for an operation that was an international effort. George Styllis, latimes.com, "From mission impossible to mission accomplished: Thailand rejoices as last boys rescued from cave," 11 July 2018 Germany’s approach to its title defense represented the power of teamwork, unity and humility—of a restless refusal to settle for the status quo. Brian Straus, SI.com, "Quarterfinal Stage a Narrative Tipping Point for World Cup Contenders," 5 July 2018 Here’s just one outcome of valuing confidence over humility: Online trolls thrive. Ellen Mcgirt, Fortune, "raceAhead: Hacking Diversity in the Legal Profession," 22 June 2018 Vigorous independence, sharp-as-a-tack intelligence, and simple, old-fashioned, Midwestern humility makes her the ultimate public servant. Michael C. Bender, WSJ, "Mulvaney Likely to Remain Head of Consumer Bureau for Some Time," 19 June 2018 To them, such luxury is not at odds with Jesus' teachings of moderation and humility. Doug Criss, CNN, "Jesse Duplantis says he's not asking followers to buy him a private jet. He just wants them to 'believe'," 4 June 2018 The queen is a fascinating person, and this show brings forth her humanity, courage, strength, and humility. The Christian Science Monitor, "What are you watching? Readers recommend 'Big Little Lies,' 'The Americans'," 1 June 2018 Second only to politicians, actors have the highest bar for humility. Lauren Larson, GQ, "Zach Woods in the Woods," 31 May 2018 Despite that peculiar humility, Kim Yong Chol has a reputation for being cantankerous and snide. Charlie Campbell / Beijing, Time, "Who Is Kim Yong Chol? Meet Kim Jong Un's Ever-Present Right-Hand Man," 28 May 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'humility.' 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 humility

14th century, in the meaning defined above

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Last Updated

13 Sep 2018

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The first known use of humility was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for humility

humility

noun

English Language Learners Definition of humility

: the quality or state of not thinking you are better than other people : the quality or state of being humble

humility

noun
hu·mil·i·ty | \ hyü-ˈmi-lə-tē , yü- \

Kids Definition of humility

: the quality of being humble She accepted the award with humility.

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