hu·​mil·​i·​ty hyü-ˈmi-lə-tē How to pronounce humility (audio)
: 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 In other words, humility serves as the foundation of our ability to thrive, both as individuals and together in human society. Jen Cole Wright, The Conversation, 13 Sep. 2023 The two oldest, most corrupt and most conniving politicians of the last half-century whose policies are responsible for the high crime, open borders and low wages should have some humility. Fox News Staff, Fox News, 2 Sep. 2023 The biggest is the humility his parents instilled in him early on. Gregory Burnett, cleveland, 28 Aug. 2023 This might read as false humility, but similar passages appear throughout his letters. Alex Ross, The New Yorker, 4 Sep. 2023 The markers of progression are obviously uplifting – pain was relieved significantly after the last surgeries – yet Sanders wraps his optimism with caution and humility. Jarrett Bell, USA TODAY, 29 Aug. 2023 In a 1998 radio interview around the release of the Schneider-produced In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, Mangum expresses a degree of humility that is hard to recognize in the current era of influencer-musicians. Marc Hogan, Pitchfork, 25 Aug. 2023 Ron was so willing to be vulnerable, willing to explore wherever the scene would take us — to a place of anger, or a place of humility or a place of deep love or sorrow. Octavia Spencer, Variety, 22 Aug. 2023 Even if its Americanization follows a standard template, the movie maintains a flavorful sprinkling of the material’s cultural specificity, its spiritual elements and its philosophical lessons about hubris and humility. David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter, 15 Aug. 2023 See More

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

Word History

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined above

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

Dictionary Entries Near humility

Cite this Entry

“Humility.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition


hu·​mil·​i·​ty hyü-ˈmil-ət-ē How to pronounce humility (audio)
: the quality or state of being humble

More from Merriam-Webster on humility

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