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

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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.

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 Growth is the domain of great expectations, while value is the land where just achieving mediocrity can beat the overall market. Shawn Tully, Fortune, 14 Oct. 2021 On Wednesday, and again on Friday, manager Joe Maddon said the Angels needed to land two front-line starters or risk perpetual mediocrity. Los Angeles Times, 27 Sep. 2021 Cluttering the space with commercial mediocrity sadly suggests a return to business as usual. Charles Mcnulty Theater Critic, Los Angeles Times, 4 Oct. 2021 The on-field mediocrity ultimately put the pressure on Mani and contributed to his downfall. Tristan Lavalette, Forbes, 29 Sep. 2021 And what of Mario Mendoza, the player whose name has for decades been linked with mediocrity. New York Times, 24 Sep. 2021 Public-sector unions protect mediocrity and promote interests incompatible with the general welfare. Aron Ravin, National Review, 9 July 2021 This combination of mediocrity and one quarter of dominance makes the Irish hard to gauge in comparison to the other teams atop the Football Bowl Subdivision. Paul Myerberg, USA TODAY, 25 Sep. 2021 The Dodgers almost certainly would have a better record than the Milwaukee Brewers (91-58) or whatever team emerges from the mediocrity that is the NL East, but no matter: no home field for a wild card. Bill Shaikin, Los Angeles Times, 20 Sep. 2021

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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Time Traveler for mediocrity

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The first known use of mediocrity was in 1588

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Last Updated

23 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Mediocrity.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Oct. 2021.

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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

More from Merriam-Webster on mediocrity

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for mediocrity

Nglish: Translation of mediocrity for Spanish Speakers


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