mediocrity

noun
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

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, chicagotribune.com, "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 And that’s offset their mediocrity just about everywhere else. Geoff Baker, The Seattle Times, "Former Everett Silvertips goalie Carter Hart putting on one-man show to keep Philadelphia Flyers in playoff hunt," 11 Feb. 2019 Black pain is nothing more than a threadbare cushion for them, passed down from generation to generation, protecting them from confronting their own aggressive white mediocrity. Kirsten West Savali, The Root, "‘Highly Offended’ White Teacher Kicked My 9-Year-Old Son Out of Class for Taking Knee During Pledge," 21 May 2018 Expectations for Miami in 2019 are low partly because owner Stephen Ross has said the franchise will abandon its win-now approach to build with the long term in mind and end a cycle of mediocrity. Steven Wine, The Seattle Times, "Dolphins must wait to seal deal with Patriots’ Flores," 21 Jan. 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

18 Apr 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

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

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).

WORD OF THE DAY

to affect and impair by alcohol or a drug

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Words from Greek and Latin Quiz

  • roman forum
  • Which of the following months comes from a Latin word for “ten”?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Word Winder's CrossWinder

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

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

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