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

Keep scrolling for more

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

After being mired in mediocrity for the past two decades, the Panthers made a sizable financial commitment this offseason. Wells Dusenbury,, "‘I’ve never felt a buzz like this’ — Ticket sales, hype building up as Florida Panthers begin training camp," 12 Sep. 2019 While the Cardinals wallowed in mediocrity for the first half of the season, two of their most important players were vastly underperforming. Matt Martell,, "Who Has the Edge in the NL Central's Three-Team Race?," 19 Aug. 2019 For Oregon to make a successful return to the national stage for the first time since 2014, the Ducks must overcome their chief shortcoming in this recent era of mediocrity. Jon Wilner, The Mercury News, "Oregon preview: Expectations high for Herbert and Cristobal, as is the pressure," 19 Aug. 2019 Texas no longer seems mired in mediocrity, but Herman and Co. still have to address some key areas before opening the season at home against Louisiana Tech on Aug. 31. Nick Moyle,, "Texas Longhorns: 5 things to watch," 1 Aug. 2019 After missing out the past two seasons, the New Orleans Pelicans (44-34) are back in the hunt for a spot in the playoffs with years of being mired in mediocrity still looming over the organization. William Guillory,, "Anthony Davis, Pelicans attempting to build playoff foundation in New Orleans," 6 Apr. 2018 The show's drift into mediocrity is a shame, especially since it was initially held up as a breakthrough for women in front of and -- with Arnold's hiring -- behind the camera. Lorraine Ali,, "‘Big Little Lies’: How Meryl Streep redeems a mediocre season," 15 July 2019 The show’s drift into mediocrity is a shame, especially since it was initially held up as a breakthrough for women in front of and — with Arnold’s hiring — behind the camera. Lorraine Ali,, "'Big Little Lies': How Meryl Streep redeems a mediocre season," 14 July 2019 No one ever has managed to reduce Federer to mid-match mediocrity quite the way Nadal can on occasion, part of why the Spaniard entered Friday with a 24-15 overall lead head-to-head, including 10-3 at Grand Slam tournaments. Howard Fendrich, The Denver Post, "11 years later, Federer tops Nadal in Wimbledon semifinals," 12 July 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about mediocrity

Statistics for mediocrity

Last Updated

19 Sep 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for mediocrity

The first known use of mediocrity was in 1588

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

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

Keep scrolling for more

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

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).


authorized for issue (as a bond)

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Musical Words Quiz

  • gramophone
  • Which word describes a musical performance marked by the absence of instrumental accompaniment?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!