humble

adjective
hum·​ble | \ ˈhəm-bəl also chiefly Southern ˈəm- How to pronounce humble (audio) \
humbler\ ˈhəm-​b(ə-​)lər How to pronounce humble (audio) \; humblest\ ˈhəm-​b(ə-​)ləst How to pronounce humble (audio) \

Definition of humble

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : not proud or haughty : not arrogant or assertive
2 : reflecting, expressing, or offered in a spirit of deference or submission a humble apology
3a : ranking low in a hierarchy or scale : insignificant, unpretentious
b : not costly or luxurious a humble contraption

humble

verb
hum·​ble | \ ˈhəm-bəl also chiefly Southern ˈəm- How to pronounce humble (audio) \
humbled; humbling\ ˈhəm-​b(ə-​)liŋ How to pronounce humble (audio) \

Definition of humble (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to make (someone) humble (see humble entry 1) in spirit or manner
2 : to destroy the power, independence, or prestige of

Other Words from humble

Adjective

humbleness \ ˈhəm-​bəl-​nəs How to pronounce humble (audio) \ noun
humbly \ ˈhəm-​blē How to pronounce humble (audio) \ adverb

Verb

humbler \ ˈhəm-​b(ə-​)lər How to pronounce humble (audio) \ noun
humblingly \ ˈhəm-​b(ə-​)liŋ-​lē How to pronounce humble (audio) \ adverb

Humility: Its Use and Meaning

Humility means “the state of being humble.” Both it and humble have their origin in the Latin word humilis, meaning "low."

Humble can be used to describe what is ranked low by others, as in "persons of humble origins." People also use the word of themselves and things associated with themselves; if you describe yourself as "but a humble editor" or refer to your home as your "humble abode," you are saying that neither you nor your home is very impressive.

Like this latter use of humble, the kind of lowness expressed in the word humility is typically one chosen by oneself. Here are some examples of humility in use:

When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.
— Proverbs 11:2

A sudden humility descended upon the King. He felt, as so many men were to feel in similar circumstances in ages to come, as though he were a child looking eagerly for guidance to an all-wise master—a child, moreover, handicapped by water on the brain, feet three sizes too large for him, and hands consisting mainly of thumbs.
— P. G. Wodehouse, The Clicking of Cuthbert, 1922

Eating grits and fatback for breakfast and washing up every morning in cold water from a hydrant in the backyard helped one learn humility and humanity.
— Julius Lester, Falling Pieces of Broken Sky, 1990

I realize now that she had an awareness of the nature of the order of life, and of the necessity of living with and respecting that order. With this respect comes a necessary humility that we, with our early-21st-century chutzpah, lack at our peril.
— Bill Joy, Wired, April 2000

Who has not gazed at the night sky, mouth slightly agape? The experience is so common, its effects so uniform, that a standard vocabulary has evolved to describe it. Invariably we speak of the profound humility we feel before the enormity of the universe. We are as bits of dust in a spectacle whose scope beggars the imagination, whose secrets make a mockery of reason.
— Edwin Dobb, Harper's, February 1995

If leadership has a secret sauce, it may well be humility. A humble boss understands that there are things he doesn't know. He listens: not only to the other bigwigs in Davos, but also to the kind of people who don't get invited, such as his customers.
The Economist, 26 Jan. 2013

For many, the lowness in both humility and humble is something worth cultivating.

Examples of humble in a Sentence

Adjective Humble though it may be, and about as glamorous as a galosh, it is a fish that has shaped the political and social history of Europe like no other, with the possible exception of cod. — R. W. Apple, Jr., New York Times, 30 Oct. 2002 She would not come closer to me, as much as I thought she wished to, hungering not for anything like love but for plain, humble succor. — Chang-rae Lee, A Gesture Life, 1999 Women are the organizing soft-centered socialists, the nice people, the sugar-and-spice lot, identifying with the poor and humble; men are snips and snails and puppy-dog tails, and rampant, selfish, greedy capitalists. — Fay Weldon, Harper's, May 1998 Despite all his achievements, he has remained humble. He is very humble about his achievements. She is too humble to let praise go to her head. Please accept my humble apologies. Her humble suggestion is that we review the data more carefully. He comes from a humble background. She's not ashamed of her humble beginnings. Verb Cuba's reliance on tourism is a somewhat humbling turn for the revolution, which has long prided itself on producing topflight doctors and teachers—not concierges. — Tim Padgett, Time, 22 Dec. 2003 … audiences loved to see villains punished and arrogant young men humbled, they did not want to fidget and squirm through mea culpas before the final scene. — Elaine Showalter, Civilization, April/May 1999 It frightened and humbled him but also made him feel darkly charmed. — Don DeLillo, Mao II, 1991 Her success has humbled her critics. Last year's champion was humbled by an unknown newcomer. See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Bayh was always a humble man who never wanted those around him to call him senator, just Birch, said Berman. IndyStar, 22 June 2022 Los Angeles was supposed to play the humble host of the Midsummer Classic in 2020. Sarah Valenzuela, Los Angeles Times, 19 June 2022 Through his example, Mark showed me how to be gracious in victory, resilient in defeat, and humble in the small measure of fame that is the lot of a TV commentator. Paul Begala, CNN, 18 June 2022 Despite her impressive roster of songs, however, don’t go calling the humble Lennox an icon to her face. Christian Allaire, Vogue, 17 June 2022 Instead, writers Earl and Hayward gently underscore the recluse’s isolation through bittersweet details of his humble daily life, adding a healthy dose of humorously deadpan Britishness into the mix to winning effect. Tomris Laffly, Variety, 15 June 2022 In a career spanning half a century, Hall was a quintessential character actor, a ubiquitous hangdog face whose doleful appearance could shroud a booming intensity and humble gravitas. Jake Coyle, BostonGlobe.com, 13 June 2022 In a career spanning half a century, Hall was a ubiquitous hangdog face whose doleful, weary appearance could shroud a booming intensity and humble sensitivity. Jake Coyle, Chicago Tribune, 13 June 2022 In a career spanning half a century, Hall was a quintessential character actor, a ubiquitous hangdog face whose doleful appearance could shroud a booming intensity and humble gravitas. CBS News, 13 June 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Like coach said, football will humble you real quick. Mark Inabinett | Minabinett@al.com, al, 18 May 2022 Alternately harrowing and hilarious, the book’s drug-consumption-per-page quotient is enough to humble Hunter S. Thompson and William S. Burroughs combined. Alan Light, SPIN, 5 Mar. 2022 The cheap deaths and dozen or so boss showdowns will humble you, but the stellar fix of early ’90s nostalgia will keep you glued until the very end. Joshua Khan, Wired, 26 Dec. 2021 Both books contain an abundance of stories featuring frustrated scientists who seem to live in their labs, who endure ferocious professional battles and who must humble themselves to raise funds for their work. Washington Post, 17 Dec. 2021 The Iron Bowl can humble fan bases and players and especially the coaches, but this one showed that maybe Auburn isn’t too far behind its in-state rival after all. Joseph Goodman | Jgoodman@al.com, al, 27 Nov. 2021 Though Michigan’s players and coaches dedicated only a few words to questions about Lombardi during the week, their desire to humble a player responsible for more than 300 yards and three touchdowns in a shocking upset by the Spartans was clear. Michael Cohen, Detroit Free Press, 18 Sep. 2021 For the past two weeks, Alabama’s coach has been trying to humble his team in preparation for the Gators. Joseph Goodman | Jgoodman@al.com, al, 15 Sep. 2021 If the 9/11 attacks were a failure of imagination by US authorities -- who would have thought a terror gang armed only with box cutters could humble a superpower? Stephen Collinson, CNN, 11 Sep. 2021 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'humble.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of humble

Adjective

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Verb

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for humble

Adjective and Verb

Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin humilis low, humble, from humus earth; akin to Greek chthōn earth, chamai on the ground

Learn More About humble

Time Traveler for humble

Time Traveler

The first known use of humble was in the 13th century

See more words from the same century

Dictionary Entries Near humble

humbird

humble

humble-bee

See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for humble

Last Updated

23 Jun 2022

Cite this Entry

“Humble.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/humble. Accessed 27 Jun. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More Definitions for humble

humble

adjective
hum·​ble | \ ˈhəm-bəl How to pronounce humble (audio) \
humbler; humblest

Kids Definition of humble

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : not regarding others as inferior : not overly proud : modest She is humble despite her great success.
2 : expressed in a way that does not show too much pride humble apologies
3 : low in rank or condition They are people of humble origin.

Other Words from humble

humbly \ -​blē \ adverb

humble

verb
humbled; humbling

Kids Definition of humble (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : to make modest The failure humbled him.
2 : to easily and unexpectedly defeat Our surprise attack humbled the enemy.

More from Merriam-Webster on humble

Nglish: Translation of humble for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of humble for Arabic Speakers

WORD OF THE DAY

Test Your Vocabulary

Odd Habits and Quirks

  • image1926873504
  • Which of the following best describes an easily irritated person?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

TAKE THE QUIZ
Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

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!