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.

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 the song’s close, the language reflects his understanding, ending with Lamar in church giving a full-bodied attestation of love and humility in the face of someone’s deepest truths about themselves. Los Angeles Times, 14 May 2022 But think about what this film represents: years of borderline-obsessive dedication to chronicling a closed religious community, plus the commitment and humility to return after making a fool of himself early on. Peter Debruge, Variety, 6 May 2022 Though this is one of the denser texts on this list, and will require some patience and interest in the academic formalities of psychoanalytic theory, the perceptiveness and humility of Winnicott’s observations are worth the read. Ana Cecilia Alvarez, The Atlantic, 1 May 2022 In an athletic era of end-zone celebrations and bat flips, North’s humility sounds refreshing. Edward Lee, Baltimore Sun, 29 Apr. 2022 But while the nature of performance suggests inauthenticity, that humility comes from a real place. Washington Post, 25 Apr. 2022 Children surrounded the couple; the choreography conveyed simplicity and humility. New York Times, 24 Apr. 2022 As Stu suffers a fateful illness, the love and humility of a father-son reunion provides a natural spiritual metaphor to this mortal story. Armond White, National Review, 20 Apr. 2022 Yet its cause for pause and reflection through uncertainty has allowed some of us to find presence even through fear and humility through the confusion. Jennifer Sodini, Rolling Stone, 20 Apr. 2022 See More

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.

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

18 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Humility.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for humility


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.

More from Merriam-Webster on humility

Nglish: Translation of humility for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of humility for Arabic Speakers


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