humility

noun

hu·​mil·​i·​ty hyü-ˈmi-lə-tē How to pronounce humility (audio)
yü-
: 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.

Example Sentences

He accepted the honor with humility. The ordeal taught her humility.
Recent Examples on the Web Tetrick’s second daughter, Regan, called her father strong yet gentle, describing a man who carried himself with confidence but also with humility. Kaylee Remington, cleveland, 26 Nov. 2022 Approach advocacy with humility, and then take responsibility for filling in your own knowledge gaps. Debbie Ferguson, Quartz, 1 Nov. 2022 With humility and being broke or cocky with the checkbook? Brooklyn White, Essence, 16 Sep. 2022 But the earlier version died because of Manchin and Manchin alone, not a broader revolt by either the party's left or right flanks, which means there should be some humility to these takes. Benjy Sarlin, NBC News, 24 Aug. 2022 It’s a humble self-portrait, and the humility is most welcome. Peter Rainer, The Christian Science Monitor, 9 Nov. 2022 Getting this right requires not only self-awareness but courage and humility. Phillimon Zongo, Forbes, 11 Nov. 2022 But there’s a braveness and such a kind of humbleness humility. Mia Galuppo, The Hollywood Reporter, 5 Nov. 2022 His thoughtful pauses, Midwestern humility and lanky, 6-foot-3 frame all contributed to his bearing an air similar to Jimmy Stewart. Michael Cavna, Washington Post, 4 Nov. 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.

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.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/humility. Accessed 9 Dec. 2022.

Kids Definition

humility

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

More from Merriam-Webster on humility

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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