humility

noun
hu·​mil·​i·​ty | \ hyü-ˈmi-lə-tē How to pronounce humility (audio) , 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

His size, his style of play, his humility, the way he’s constantly underestimated. Chris Ballard, SI.com, "A New Beginning: The Warriors Face an Uncertain Future," 15 June 2019 Aside from her natural humility, there's a dermatological reason why Vergara keeps things simple. Leah Prinzivalli, Allure, "Sofia Vergara's Favorite Drugstore Skin-Care Products Include $11 Makeup Remover and $14 Cleanser," 31 May 2019 The difference between appropriation and appreciation [when] cooking with flavors that are not from your region or background is humility. Nicole Y. Chung, Washington Post, "To tell a story of immigrants, Lillian Li turned to a world she knows well: Chinese restaurants," 4 June 2019 Despite its sham humility, this bitter retort to the scribblers who denied him the last measure of greatness falls short for a want of tough-minded self-analysis. Jamie James, WSJ, "‘John O’Hara: Four Novels of the 1930s’ Review: Big Fish in Small Towns," 3 Jan. 2019 Isolationism appeals to a sense of humility, giving us the moral high ground by purporting to care about what matters most: home. Dan Crenshaw, WSJ, "Troops in the Mideast Keep Terror Away," 24 Feb. 2019 The American, who typically wears a simple brown habit and sandals, exemplified the humility that Pope Francis espoused for the church’s hierarchy. Francis X. Rocca, WSJ, "‘It Will Cause a Scandal.’ The Pope and a Trusted U.S. Cardinal Clash Over Sex-Abuse Crisis," 14 Feb. 2019 On the other hand, the best judges have the humility and the restraint to follow the law. Fox News, "Gowdy: SCOTUS confirmation process has become politicized," 10 July 2018 Similarly antisocial is his human counterpart Frank, played with an inexhaustible supply of humility by Will Arnett. Barbara Vandenburgh, azcentral, "'Show Dogs' needs to be put down," 17 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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Statistics for humility

Last Updated

21 Jun 2019

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Time Traveler for humility

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 How to pronounce humility (audio) , yü-\

Kids Definition of humility

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

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More from Merriam-Webster on humility

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with humility

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for humility

Spanish Central: Translation of humility

Nglish: Translation of humility for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of humility for Arabic Speakers

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