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Definitions Of Humility

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Table of contents

  1. Etymology of Humility
  2. Humility Means Being Generous
  3. Humility Means Being Respectful to Yourself and Others
  4. Humility Means Being Selfless
  5. Conclusion

When I was a child, I’ve been told plenty of times that everyone should know how to be humble. I began asking myself, “What does humility mean?” According to The Chamber’s Dictionary, humility means, “the state or quality of being humble; lowliness of mind; modesty.” After researching the word humility, I began noticing others who express humility in everyday life. Such as someone allowing another person who is in a hurry cut the line in front of them at the grocery store so they can get to where they need to be faster. Someone helping a person whose car broke down by the side of the road. These little acts show great amounts of humility every day. Showing humility in our lives is important because you are being generous, respectful to yourself and others around you, and being selfless.

Etymology of Humility

The word humility first appeared in the early 14th century. Humility originated from the word umelite meaning “humility, modesty, sweetness” in Old French ( The Latin word for humility is humilitatem meaning, “lowness, small stature; insignificance; baseness, littleness of mind” ( Humility is also from Church Latin written as humilis meaning “lowly, humble.” As stated earlier, humility means “the state or quality of being humble: lowliness of mind; modesty” (The Chamber’s Dictionary). From Merriam-Webster’s Thesaurus some of humility synonyms are modesty, down-to-earthness, and meekness. Some antonyms of humility are; cockiness, arrogance, and pride (Merriam-Webster Thesaurus).

Humility Means Being Generous

Generosity takes huge role in humility. Generosity is when you give a helping hand to others when they need it. Such as giving a homeless person some food or change. Donating your possessions to others because they need it more than you do. Offering help to the elderly when they cannot do something. When being generous towards others, the people you help take notice of how much you help others and begin to praise you. However, when you’re being humble, you cannot boast about your achievements to others. According to Everett L. Worthington, being prideful of your actions and yourself is not being humble.

Worthington introduces us to a woman named Rena Canipe. She is, in his words, one of his “Heroes of Humility.” Canipe is a woman who is diagnosed with dementia who dedicated her life into helping others. Canipe did not help others for the sake of being praised, to receive money. She helped because she wanted to, not because she needed to. When asked about what she did in life she responded with, “I’ve never done anything important in my life” (Worthington 5). I believe that Rena Canipe is a perfect example of being humble. As I earlier stated that humility is not being prideful in your actions but giving out a helping hand to others who need it when you want to not because you are forced to do so.

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Humility Means Being Respectful to Yourself and Others

Being respectful to yourself and others means you must understand that you’re not overly important in your eyes. Humility is not arrogance. Arrogance is “exaggerating or disposed to exaggerate one's own worth or importance often by an overbearing manner” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary). You cannot exploit how skilled you are at a certain subject and degrade others who aren’t as skilled. You must understand that others are skilled at other subjects that you are most likely aren’t as skilled in. Therefore, you must not judge people on their abilities and talents. Having down-to-earth views about your skills is crucial when being humble, but this does not mean degrading yourself with self-depreciation. Self-depreciation is “disparagement or undervaluation of oneself” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary).

Vaishali Patel, a registered psychotherapist, explains that self-deprecation is strikingly different than that of humility. She tells an example of someone who is complimenting someone’s talent in making desserts. Patel explains that the self-deprecating response to the compliment is when you point out the mistakes you made when you created the cake. The more humble response, again from Patel, is when you accept the compliment with a “thank you” and understand that the dessert did not meet your expectations, but accept that you can do better with the mental notes you’ve made when creating the dessert next time. However, we are talking about self-image not desserts. The example about desserts is to show how we should handle our self-image. We should not overly criticize ourselves but understand that although we tried our best at a certain subject, we can improve ourselves when we try again.

Humility Means Being Selfless

Selflessness is when a person puts other people’s needs and wants above their own needs and wants. An example of a selfless act, as said in the beginning, is when you give your spot in line to another person who is in a hurry. In this example, you are adding the person’s waiting time into your own so they can leave the store the time you should’ve been leaving. Another example of giving your time away to help other is when you help repair someone who’s car broke down on the side of the road. Time is limited in human life and is considered precious. Giving up that time to others is seen as selflessness. Giving your possessions away to someone who needs it more than you is also selflessness. The antonym for selflessness is selfishness. Selfishness is not a part of being humble. Being selfish is not humility, because you are using others for your personal gain.

Joseph Amoah, author of article titled “The Four Ingredients Of Humility: Selfless”, explains his reasoning on why being selfish is not a part of humility. An act is selfless when you aren’t looking to gain anything; however, an act is selfish when you are looking for something to gain (Amoah 2018). Payment or praise are what people occasionally think about when they do good deeds for others. People who are humble do not want rewards for helping others in need. Amoah explains that helping others is not to gain personally but to help people for their own gain. That you can only help with what you are willing to give (2018). I believe this to be true because you cannot give away things others when you do not have it, but I also believe that we also can give services in place for the things we do not have to give. Such as not having any items that can help make a task easier for someone but help them with their task so they can be finished faster.


Humility, as I have stated earlier, is something everybody can to learn. Humility can be shown in everyday life from the child sharing their toys to the adult giving a helping hand to people who need it. Humility means being generous to the people when they most need it, and not showing pride for your work. Humility means being respectful towards yourself and others, not to degrading yourself or others. Humility means being selfless by giving your services to others when you can, not to be selfish by helping people for praise or money. Learning how to be humble can help you avoid being prideful, degrading, or selfish to other people and with ourselves. Humility is the quality of being generous, respectful, and selfless to ourselves and others.

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Definitions Of Humility. (2022, February 17). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 11, 2023, from
“Definitions Of Humility.” Edubirdie, 17 Feb. 2022,
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