me·​di·​oc·​ri·​ty ˌmē-dē-ˈä-krə-tē How to pronounce mediocrity (audio)
plural mediocrities
: the quality or state of being mediocre
came to terms with his mediocrity
: moderate ability or value
fed up with the mediocrity of the local schools
: 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.

Example Sentences

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 in the bigger picture, what TCU is doing should give every program hope that a coaching change doesn’t doom you to three or four more years of mediocrity. Dan Wolken, USA TODAY, 6 Jan. 2023 The Rangers also fell on hard times, as the past six seasons of mediocrity (or worse) have shown. Dallas News, 17 Aug. 2022 Yet its apparent mediocrity has hidden an important story that has played out slowly over the past few years. Robinson Meyer, The Atlantic, 9 Nov. 2022 Add it all up and the Packers have been the picture of mediocrity. Rob Reischel, Forbes, 18 Dec. 2022 Yes, the same Brewers who have been mired in mediocrity (26-29) since trading All-Star closer Josh Hader at the deadline, and trailed the Phillies by 4 ½ games on the morning of Sept. 15. Bob Nightengale, USA TODAY, 30 Sep. 2022 Travis soaked up the moment with the fans, many of whom had stuck with the program despite four years of mediocrity that had left the Seminoles without a winning season since 2017. Matt Murschel, Orlando Sentinel, 26 Nov. 2022 Considering that scale and scheme, there’s lots of mediocrity. Christopher Borrelli, Chicago Tribune, 11 Nov. 2022 But the Patriots have been a model of mediocrity all season. Tyler Dragon, USA TODAY, 3 Nov. 2022 See More

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.

Word History


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.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Jan. 2023.

Kids Definition


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

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