ig·​no·​ble ig-ˈnō-bəl How to pronounce ignoble (audio)
: characterized by baseness, lowness, or meanness
: of low birth or common origin : plebeian
ignobility noun
ignobleness noun
ig-ˈnō-blē How to pronounce ignoble (audio)
 also  -bə-lē

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The word noble, in addition to referring to someone born to aristocratic ranks, can also be used to describe someone of outstanding character. That word first appeared in English in the 13th century, and its antonym, ignoble, came about two centuries later. Ignoble derives via Middle English and Middle French from the Latin prefix in- ("not") and the Old Latin gnobilis ("noble"). Originally, ignoble described someone born to common or plebeian origins, but by the late 16th century it had come to describe people of dishonorable character, or the actions performed by such people.

Choose the Right Synonym for ignoble

mean, ignoble, abject, sordid mean being below the normal standards of human decency and dignity.

mean suggests small-mindedness, ill temper, or cupidity.

mean and petty satire

ignoble suggests a loss or lack of some essential high quality of mind or spirit.

an ignoble scramble after material possessions

abject may imply degradation, debasement, or servility.

abject poverty

sordid is stronger than all of these in stressing physical or spiritual degradation and abjectness.

a sordid story of murder and revenge

Examples of ignoble in a Sentence

an ignoble child who would one day grow up to be a prince among playwrights such an ignoble act is completely unworthy of a military officer
Recent Examples on the Web Others might be concerned about certain obsessive or ignoble achievements in games standing out in their timeline. Kevin Purdy, Ars Technica, 8 Nov. 2023 As camp stew moved away from outdoor barbecues, recipes increasingly dispensed with the more ignoble parts of the pig. Robert F. Moss, Southern Living, 27 Oct. 2023 One of the few (admittedly mixed) blessings of Trump’s ignoble reign has been demonstrating the fragility of our democracy, the importance of political involvement and the agency voters have to bring about change. Mark Z. Barabak, Los Angeles Times, 20 Sep. 2023 The only way Dial of Destiny could have given him a more ignoble fate would have been to reveal that, like Neidermeyer in Animal House, Mutt was killed by his troops. Vulture, 30 June 2023 One of Ours, her Pulitzer Prize-winning 1922 novel about a small-town soldier gone off to fight and die in the Great War, which Ernest Hemingway famously derided for the inauthenticity of its battle scenes, is now celebrated as a nuanced portrait of self-doubt and ignoble sacrifice. Jeff MacGregor, Smithsonian Magazine, 22 June 2023 And that means understanding people who are ignoble, damaged, broken. Helen Rosner, The New Yorker, 24 Apr. 2022 Having equal opportunity: ignoble. Washington Post, 26 Aug. 2021 Like Caligula, Mussolini met an ignoble end. Paul Cooper, Discover Magazine, 7 Nov. 2018 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'ignoble.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English, from Middle French, from Latin ignobilis, from in- + Old Latin gnobilis noble

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Time Traveler
The first known use of ignoble was in the 15th century


Dictionary Entries Near ignoble

Cite this Entry

“Ignoble.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ignoble. Accessed 3 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


ig·​no·​ble ig-ˈnō-bəl How to pronounce ignoble (audio)
: not of noble birth
: not noble or honorable
ignoble thoughts
ignoble conduct
ignobly adverb

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