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

But the dramatic path the Browns have taken on their path to mediocrity has been nothing short of gripping. Andrew Beaton, WSJ, "Cleveland Browns: Win, Lose or Draw—the NFL’s Most Entertaining Team," 26 Oct. 2018 Snow represents, to me, all the ways in which male mediocrity is often heralded over female greatness. Jill Gutowitz, Glamour, "I Saw That Dany Twist on Game of Thrones Coming—but That Doesn’t Mean I Like It," 13 May 2019 By such a reckoning, Harvard, with only $3.9 billion per billionaire, struggles to rise above mediocrity. Kevin Conley, Town & Country, "Harvard Doesn't Suck," 26 Sep. 2014 So many have used their oppression as an excuse for mediocrity. Coleman Hughes, WSJ, "Martin Luther King, Colorblind Radical," 17 Jan. 2019 To watch an entire movie with a young woman at the center whom no one is abusing/resenting/seething with anger toward was refreshing in ways that more than made up for the mediocrity of the plot/dialogue/sight gags. Heidi Stevens,, "Why Melissa McCarthy's 'Life of the Party' could spark a quiet revolution," 24 May 2018 State austerity, with no end in sight, is a plan for permanent mediocrity. Author: Charles Wohlforth | Opinion, Anchorage Daily News, "Here’s the true economic cost of the uncertainty created by the Alaska Legislature," 18 Feb. 2018 Samuelson—who for years had been blasting the mediocrity of most fund managers—knew lightning had struck. Jason Zweig, WSJ, "What You Can Learn from One of Warren Buffett’s Smartest Investors," 21 Dec. 2018 The result of their abject mediocrity is something that seemed impossible not long ago: LeBron James and the Lakers are in serious jeopardy of missing the NBA playoffs. Ben Cohen, WSJ, "Buy Low on LeBron James and the Lakers," 15 Feb. 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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Learn More about mediocrity

Statistics for mediocrity

Last Updated

13 Jun 2019

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Time Traveler for mediocrity

The first known use of mediocrity was in 1588

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More Definitions for mediocrity



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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Spanish Central: Translation of mediocrity

Nglish: Translation of mediocrity for Spanish Speakers

Comments on mediocrity

What made you want to look up mediocrity? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to move with exaggerated bouncy motions

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