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.

Examples of humility in a Sentence

He accepted the honor with humility. The ordeal taught her humility.
Recent Examples on the Web American medicine’s future will benefit from embracing humility and being open to learning from our global colleagues. Robert Pearl, Forbes, 12 Feb. 2024 This lore was presented not bitterly but with an air of humility and charm. Mary Gaitskill, The New Yorker, 5 Feb. 2024 The humility inherent in this approach, which echoes David’s own self-deprecating performance, is hard to come by these days, when popular stand-ups from Chappelle to Amy Schumer traffic in sociopolitical sanctimony and position themselves as experts on experiences not their own. TIME, 2 Feb. 2024 In another, Father Gregory Boyle, founder of Homeboy Industries, said Huizar has demonstrated humility and remorse. Dakota Smith, Los Angeles Times, 26 Jan. 2024 VanDerveer, whose humility has been a constant through all the necessary adaptations to sustain unparalleled success, treated Friday night’s game like any other. Danny Emerman, The Mercury News, 19 Jan. 2024 Larry Culp is low key, press shy, and talks a lot about humility. Alan Murray, Fortune, 26 Jan. 2024 And in that rigor, there’s also humility, an infinite tenderness. Sara Holdren, Vulture, 25 Jan. 2024 Emphasizing the need for cultural humility, diverse representation, and systemic change, Boyd addresses the importance of tackling health disparities effectively. David L. Coddon, San Diego Union-Tribune, 25 Jan. 2024 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'humility.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

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 24 Feb. 2024.

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

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