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

For a program mired in mediocrity, the image was audacious and ambitious, dominated by three mountain peaks overlooking a wooded valley. Andrew Greif,, "After winning Pac-12 title, Oregon Ducks plan on continuing program's climb," 1 Mar. 2018 Unfortunately, that’s a rich-get-richer dynamic, not a means to get the Hornets out of their current mediocrity. Q. Will Marcus Paige get called up (from the G-League Greensboro Swarm)? Rick Bonnell, charlotteobserver, "How long can Charlotte Hornets afford to wait to hire a general manager? | Charlotte Observer," 2 Mar. 2018 Taxpayers are funding the rush toward mediocrity and irrelevance. WSJ, "The Trouble With Grade Inflation Runs from A to D," 9 July 2018 Ours came out rock solid on the perimeter with gooey, raw dough inside — a dreadful exclamation point capping a menu of mediocrity. Mark Kurlyandchik, Detroit Free Press, "Restaurant Review: Detroit's Empire Kitchen & Cocktails has no clothes," 12 July 2018 Mired in mediocrity for nearly a decade, the Golden Bears have taken on their coach’s toughness. Matt Murschel,, "Improving Cal is No. 70 in 2018 preseason college football rankings," 18 June 2018 The club's league performances deteriorated at an alarming pace, the Hornets slipping from Europa League outsiders to mid-table mediocrity in a matter of weeks., "Why Everton Will Be Marco Silva's Last Chance at Premier League Success After Ugly Watford Split," 17 May 2018 The Rays have trended back toward mediocrity in recent seasons, but their failings don’t carry the gravitas to put them high on this list. Childs Walker,, "Where do the Orioles rank among MLB's tortured franchises?," 22 Mar. 2018 Sanchez, formerly Virginia’s associate head coach under Tony Bennett, takes over a program mired in mediocrity (at best) over the past several seasons. David Scott, charlotteobserver, "Q&A: New Charlotte 49ers basketball coach Ron Sanchez on the future – and the past | Charlotte Observer," 20 Mar. 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

17 Oct 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



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

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Spanish Central: Translation of mediocrity

Nglish: Translation of mediocrity for Spanish Speakers

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