hu·​mil·​i·​ty hyü-ˈmi-lə-tē How to pronounce humility (audio)
: freedom from pride or arrogance : the quality or state of being humble
accepted the honor with humility
The ordeal taught her humility.

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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.

Example Sentences

He accepted the honor with humility. The ordeal taught her humility.
Recent Examples on the Web Shouldn’t the Torah, therefore, request a priest to aspire to achieve the highest level of humility rather than honor? Rabbi Avi Weiss, Sun Sentinel, 27 Feb. 2023 But Kwong also includes a beguiling example of Cymbidium goeringii, a naturally occurring yellowish-green orchid whose diffident little blossom was once a symbol of humility, and whose long, narrow leaves have the élan of graceful brushstrokes. Will Heinrich, New York Times, 16 Feb. 2023 Being a confident leader actually requires having a little bit of humility. Janine Schindler, Forbes, 13 Feb. 2023 Kyler Murray has said this year’s early doses of humility — including a lopsided loss to the Chiefs in the opener — could make his team more resilient. Mark Heim |, al, 9 Oct. 2022 My time in Indianapolis has been defined by humility and growth. Photo Staff, IndyStar, 29 Dec. 2022 Zelenskyy’s trademark humility and humor was in evidence, but these attributes did not lessen the severity of his message during his first trip abroad since Russia invaded Ukraine. Emma Specter, Vogue, 22 Dec. 2022 Gaining age and experience showed Ted that the rare mix of astronomical success, humility and graciousness was his father’s greatest gift. Bryce Millercolumnist, San Diego Union-Tribune, 20 Dec. 2022 People who study Black history with humility and consistency begin talking about reparations, expanding voting rights, and allocating more resources to Black institutions. Jemar Tisby, CNN, 10 Feb. 2023 See More

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

Word History

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of humility was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near humility

Cite this Entry

“Humility.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Mar. 2023.

Kids Definition


hu·​mil·​i·​ty hyü-ˈmil-ət-ē How to pronounce humility (audio)
: the quality or state of being humble

More from Merriam-Webster on humility

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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