mediocrity

noun
me·​di·​oc·​ri·​ty | \ ˌmē-dē-ˈä-krə-tē \
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

The irony of his position is that, where the business of Hollywood entertainment is concerned, there may be no clearer example of mass mediocrity these days than the superhero movie. Justin Chang, latimes.com, "How the dazzling, overstuffed ‘Incredibles 2’ holds up a cracked mirror to present-day reality," 4 July 2018 The Wi-Fi This isn’t the appalling connectivity of Amtrak or the mediocrity of in-flight Wi-Fi. Paul Rubio, Condé Nast Traveler, "Riding the Brightline, America’s Train of the Future," 25 Sep. 2018 Traditionally positive-thinking St. Louis fans clearly are tired of the mediocrity since 2016. Paul Sullivan, chicagotribune.com, "Dexter Fowler and the Cardinals trying to keep their heads in trying times," 10 July 2018 Of course, Little Pete’s was just one of the latest old-school greasy spoons to bite the dust of gentrification, succumb to changing tastes (or cheaper chain options nearby), or simply slide into the mediocrity of an indifferent new owner. Craig Laban, Philly.com, "Middle Child a bright new player in luncheonette revival," 25 May 2018 Kraft, meanwhile, turned to the anti-Parcells, Pete Carroll, who oversaw a steady descent into mediocrity. Steve Kornacki, BostonGlobe.com, "What if Tom Brady had never stepped in for an injured Drew Bledsoe in 2001?," 12 Apr. 2018 Yet as the Ravens have slipped into mediocrity — 40-40 in five regular seasons since their Super Bowl XLVII win — first-round busts such as safety Matt Elam (2013) and receiver Breshad Perriman (2015) are glaring. Jarrett Bell, USA TODAY, "Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome has something to prove as farewell tour begins with NFL draft," 12 Apr. 2018 After the high-water mark in 1992, Benson's teams slipped into mediocrity. Jeff Duncan, NOLA.com, "Tom Benson, New Orleans Saints and Pelicans owner and self-made billionaire, dies at 90," 15 Mar. 2018 But Nebraska slipping into mediocrity is KILLING me. Mike Bianchi, OrlandoSentinel.com, "Larry the Cable Guy, a Nebraska booster and UCF fan, torn about Scott Frost leaving Orlando," 12 Jan. 2018

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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Last Updated

26 Dec 2018

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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

mediocrity

noun

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

More from Merriam-Webster on mediocrity

Spanish Central: Translation of mediocrity

Nglish: Translation of mediocrity for Spanish Speakers

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