1

humble

play
adjective hum·ble \ˈhəm-bəl also chiefly Southern ˈəm-\

Definition of humble

humbler

play \-b(ə-)lər\

humblest

play \-b(ə-)ləst\
  1. 1 :  not proud or haughty :  not arrogant or assertive

  2. 2 :  reflecting, expressing, or offered in a spirit of deference or submission <a humble apology>

  3. 3 a :  ranking low in a hierarchy or scale :  insignificant, unpretentious b :  not costly or luxurious <a humble contraption>

humbleness

play \-bəl-nəs\ noun

humbly

play \-blē\ adverb

Examples of humble in a sentence

  1. Humble though it may be, and about as glamorous as a galosh, it is a fish that has shaped the political and social history of Europe like no other, with the possible exception of cod. —R. W. Apple, Jr., New York Times, 30 Oct. 2002

  2. She would not come closer to me, as much as I thought she wished to, hungering not for anything like love but for plain, humble succor. —Chang-rae Lee, A Gesture Life, 1999

  3. Women are the organizing soft-centered socialists, the nice people, the sugar-and-spice lot, identifying with the poor and humble; men are snips and snails and puppy-dog tails, and rampant, selfish, greedy capitalists. —Fay Weldon, Harper's, May 1998

  4. Despite all his achievements, he has remained humble.

  5. He is very humble about his achievements.

  6. She is too humble to let praise go to her head.

  7. Please accept my humble apologies.

  8. Her humble suggestion is that we review the data more carefully.

  9. He comes from a humble background.

  10. She's not ashamed of her humble beginnings.

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.

Origin and Etymology of humble

Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin humilis low, humble, from humus earth; akin to Greek chthōn earth, chamai on the ground


First Known Use: 13th century


2

humble

play
verb hum·ble \ˈhəm-bəl also chiefly Southern ˈəm-\

Definition of humble

humbled

humbling

play \-b(ə-)liŋ\
  1. transitive verb
  2. 1 :  to make (someone) humble (see 1humble) in spirit or manner

  3. 2 :  to destroy the power, independence, or prestige of

humbler

play \-b(ə-)lər\ noun

humblingly

play \-b(ə-)liŋ-lē\ adverb

Examples of humble in a sentence

  1. Cuba's reliance on tourism is a somewhat humbling turn for the revolution, which has long prided itself on producing topflight doctors and teachers—not concierges. —Tim Padgett, Time, 22 Dec. 2003

  2. … audiences loved to see villains punished and arrogant young men humbled, they did not want to fidget and squirm through mea culpas before the final scene. —Elaine Showalter, Civilization, April/May 1999

  3. It frightened and humbled him but also made him feel darkly charmed. —Don DeLillo, Mao II, 1991

  4. Her success has humbled her critics.

  5. Last year's champion was humbled by an unknown newcomer.

Origin and Etymology of humble

(see 1humble)


First Known Use: 14th century



HUMBLE Defined for English Language Learners

1

humble

play
adjective hum·ble \ˈhəm-bəl also chiefly Southern ˈəm-\

Definition of humble for English Language Learners

  • : not proud : not thinking of yourself as better than other people

  • : given or said in a way that shows you do not think you are better than other people

  • : showing that you do not think of yourself as better than other people


2

humble

play
verb hum·ble \ˈhəm-bəl also chiefly Southern ˈəm-\

Definition of humble for English Language Learners

  • : to make (someone) feel less important or proud : to make (someone) humble

  • : to easily defeat (someone or something) in a way that is surprising or not expected


HUMBLE Defined for Kids

1

humble

play
adjective hum·ble \ˈhəm-bəl\

Definition of humble for Students

humbler

humblest

  1. 1 :  not regarding others as inferior :  not overly proud :  modest <She is humble despite her great success.>

  2. 2 :  expressed in a way that does not show too much pride <humble apologies>

  3. 3 :  low in rank or condition <They are people of humble origin.>

humbly

\-blē\ adverb

2

humble

play
verb hum·ble

Definition of humble for Students

humbled

humbling

  1. 1 :  to make modest <The failure humbled him.>

  2. 2 :  to easily and unexpectedly defeat <Our surprise attack humbled the enemy.>



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