mediocrity

noun

me·​di·​oc·​ri·​ty ˌmē-dē-ˈä-krə-tē How to pronounce mediocrity (audio)
plural mediocrities
1
a
: 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 mediocrityOscar 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.

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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 The over/under win total for the 2024 version of Chargers has been set at 8.5, which, in the NFL, is the exact expression of .500 or, stated another way, mediocrity. Houston Mitchell, Los Angeles Times, 17 June 2024 These mediocrities say the same thing to everyone in the same way. Jerry Saltz, Vulture, 27 May 2024 In practice, the regime has created a militarized republic of fear in which mediocrity is glorified and mendacity institutionalized. Ali Vaez, Foreign Affairs, 2 Feb. 2023 Consistently punching a postseason ticket is the biggest step to the Hornets shedding the mediocrity tag, though certainly not the first one. Roderick Boone, Charlotte Observer, 5 June 2024 See all Example Sentences for mediocrity 

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

Word History

Etymology

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

First Known Use

1588, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of mediocrity was in 1588

Dictionary Entries Near mediocrity

Cite this Entry

“Mediocrity.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mediocrity. Accessed 24 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition

mediocrity

noun
me·​di·​oc·​ri·​ty ˌmēd-ē-ˈäk-rət-ē How to pronounce mediocrity (audio)
plural mediocrities
1
: the quality or state of being mediocre
2
: a mediocre person

More from Merriam-Webster on mediocrity

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