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 The reward for the years of suffering, for the long stretches of mediocrity interrupted by a rare moment of postseason play, but more frequently by periods of ineptitude, arrived on Jan. 24, 1982. Ann Killion,, "For 49ers fans, earning the label of ‘faithful’ isn’t easy," 16 Oct. 2020 There was no place for the niceties of mediocrity, no false praise., "American Poet Louise Glück Wins Nobel Prize in Literature," 8 Oct. 2020 Muschamp is now 26-27 overall at South Carolina, and the general feeling is the team has leveled off at mediocrity. Dan Wolken, USA TODAY, "Opinion: Oklahoma's back-to-back meltdowns give it top spot in Misery Index," 4 Oct. 2020 But never underestimate the prevalence of mediocrity. Doug Lesmerises, cleveland, "The Browns could make the playoffs by beating only mediocre quarterbacks," 28 Sep. 2020 Travel, as a journalistic category, had long suffered from a reputation of mediocrity. Klara Glowczewska, Town & Country, "Sir Harold Evans, in Memoriam: A Personal Remembrance of the Legendary Harry," 26 Sep. 2020 Many people feel like they are stuck in a cycle of frustrating mediocrity. Arthur C. Brooks, The Atlantic, "What to Do When the Future Feels Hopeless," 24 Sep. 2020 That wasn’t enough to propel the Fuel past mediocrity. Sean Collins, Dallas News, "Postseason Overwatch League grades: Dallas Fuel’s tank line suffers from coordination issues," 16 Sep. 2020 A year ago, as the offense regressed and the Bears stumbled backward into the quicksand of mediocrity, much of Chicago was left in a chicken-or-the-egg shouting match. Dan Wiederer,, "Column: Mitch Trubisky has the Bears starting QB job and is in a good place mentally. But how much will that mean?," 6 Sep. 2020

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

Time Traveler for mediocrity

Time Traveler

The first known use of mediocrity was in 1588

See more words from the same year

Statistics for mediocrity

Last Updated

22 Oct 2020

Cite this Entry

“Mediocrity.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 29 Oct. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for mediocrity


How to pronounce mediocrity (audio)

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

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for 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).


Test Your Vocabulary

Here Be Dragons: A Creature Identification Quiz

  • monster werewolf photo
  • Which is a synonym of werewolf?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Add Diction

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!