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 Using images as arguments requires humility and nuance. Nathan Ballantyne, Scientific American, "Can Shocking Images Persuade Doubters of COVID's Dangers?," 25 Jan. 2021 And the controversial influencer is taking a new approach to win back her followers: humility. Ineye Komonibo,, "Olivia Jade Pivots To Humility In Her YouTube Return: “I Just Want To Move On & Do Better”," 25 Jan. 2021 How many columnists in this country would have the bravery and humility to quite publicly do what Ted did? cleveland, "In defense of Ted Diadiun -- I regularly disagree with him, but isn’t that the point? Letter from the Editor," 23 Jan. 2021 The epitome of an American hero, whose greatness was always cloaked in dignity, decency, and humility. Nancy Clanton, ajc, "Dignitaries, celebrities and more react to ‘considerable loss’ of Hank Aaron," 22 Jan. 2021 This salutary sense of bereavement, of a conscience awakened by the reality of human limits, infused Biden’s inaugural address with something that was missing during Trump’s tumultuous reign: humility. Los Angeles Times, "Commentary: Presidential inaugurations are theater. What a difference this new cast makes," 20 Jan. 2021 Keywords work best and are best handled in the manner of the literary essayist: as aids to reflection and self-criticism, and with subtlety, humility and humanity. Washington Post, "Delusions, justice, accountability and freedom in America," 18 Dec. 2020 Despite his ascension to the leadership of one of the nation's largest labor unions, Keegel retained a sense of gratitude and humility. Janet Moore, Star Tribune, "Tom Keegel, U.S. Teamsters leader, dies at 79," 7 Dec. 2020 The amount of work, turmoil, humility to get that last piece was extraordinary. Evan Grant, Dallas News, "Kershaw’s Challenge: A World Series champion on the field, Clayton’s true legacy begins with his charitable work off it," 25 Nov. 2020

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

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Last Updated

11 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Humility.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 6 Mar. 2021.

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More Definitions for humility



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


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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