me·​di·​oc·​ri·​ty | \ ˌmē-dē-ˈä-krə-tē How to pronounce mediocrity (audio) \
plural mediocrities

Definition of mediocrity

1a : the quality or state of being mediocre came to terms with his mediocrity
b : moderate ability or value fed up with the mediocrity of the local schools
2 : a mediocre person a most intelligent middle-aged mediocrity— Oscar Wilde

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The Enduring Moderation of Mediocre

One of the things that is remarkable about mediocre is the extent to which it has retained its meaning over the course of more than four centuries of continual use. The word, when used as an adjective, has changed very little, if at all, in its meaning since it was used in a 1586 book titled The English Secretorie (our earliest known evidence): “Mediocre, a meane betwixt high and low, vehement and slender, too much and too little as we saye. . . .” The word comes to English via Middle French from the Latin word mediocris, meaning "of medium size, moderate, middling, commonplace," and perhaps originally "halfway to the top." The noun form of mediocre is mediocrity.

Did You Know?

People interested in words always point out that mediocrity doesn't mean quite what its main root would indicate: Why doesn't it describe something that's right in the middle of the pack, exactly what you would expect? Instead the words mediocrity and mediocre always suggest disappointment. A mediocre play is one you wish you hadn't wasted an evening on, and the mediocre actor in it should probably find another profession. A person can even be called a mediocrity, though it isn't very nice and you'd never do it to his face.

Examples of mediocrity in a Sentence

We were disappointed by the mediocrity of the wine. He thought that he was a brilliant artist himself and that all his fellow painters were just mediocrities.
Recent Examples on the Web That unwittingly paved the way for the poor, the tired, the huddling masses of mediocrity to make the playoffs. Globe Staff,, "A case for expanding the NFL playoffs," 22 Feb. 2020 Rounding out the eight-year Buttigieg era of mediocrity, the South Bend area posted a higher unemployment rate in December than other Indiana locales including Elkhart, Evansville, Fort Wayne... James Freeman, WSJ, "Pete Buttigieg and ‘Virtuous Capitalism’," 12 Feb. 2020 There's power in being the starting quarterback at Texas, but only if Texas shakes off last year's mediocrity to make a run at the Big 12 championship and New Year's Six. Paul Myerberg, USA TODAY, "Early leaders for 2020 Heisman Trophy race include Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields," 18 Jan. 2020 Walker isn’t afraid to use such words as excellence and mediocrity. Washington Post, "A voice for the arts, and social justice, joins the National Gallery of Art board," 8 Jan. 2020 Their whole existence is tied up into being mad at nonwhite people because white supremacy could only do so much to bolster them and their white mediocrity. Michael Arceneaux, Essence, "Opinion: There Is No Reason To Fear Impeachment, Beloveds," 1 Oct. 2019 But progress doesn’t happen linearly, and voters have since anointed true-story mediocrity like Green Book and Bohemian Rhapsody last year, and nominated a homogenous group of actors this year. David Sims, The Atlantic, "It’s Time to Rethink What an ‘Oscar-Worthy’ Movie Looks Like," 14 Jan. 2020 Since 2016, Bengals fans have had to live with mediocrity. Ryan Gaydos, Fox News, "Cleveland Browns, Cincinnati Bengals fans look toward greener pastures to numb their pain on Sundays," 9 Jan. 2020 Is a player of his quality, approaching the latter stages of his career, going to be satisfied with mediocrity?, "Unai Emery May Have Just One Month to Save Arsenal Job Amid Concerns Over Star Players' Futures," 4 Nov. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'mediocrity.' 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 mediocrity

1588, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for mediocrity

Middle English mediokerte, mediocrite "moderation, medium size or amount," borrowed from Middle French & Latin; Middle French mediocrité "intermediate state," borrowed from Latin mediocritāt-, mediocritās "moderateness of size or amount, intermediate character, limited ability," from mediocris "of medium size, moderate, mediocre" + -itāt-, -itās -ity

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Time Traveler for mediocrity

Time Traveler

The first known use of mediocrity was in 1588

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Statistics for mediocrity

Last Updated

3 Apr 2020

Cite this Entry

“Mediocrity.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 May. 2020.

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More Definitions for mediocrity


How to pronounce mediocrity (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of mediocrity

: the quality of something that is not very good : the quality or state of being mediocre
: a person who does not have the special ability to do something well

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More from Merriam-Webster on mediocrity

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for mediocrity

Spanish Central: Translation of mediocrity

Nglish: Translation of mediocrity for Spanish Speakers

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