AskDefine | Define humility

Dictionary Definition



1 a disposition to be humble; a lack of false pride; "not everyone regards humility as a virtue" [syn: humbleness] [ant: pride]
2 a humble feeling; "he was filled with humility at the sight of the Pope" [syn: humbleness] [ant: pride]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. The characteristic of being humble; humbleness in spirit and deportment.

Related terms


the characteristic of being humble

Extensive Definition

For the medieval saint of the same name, see Saint Humility.
Humility is the defining characteristic of an unpretentious and modest person, someone who does not think that he or she is better or more important than others. Synonym: humble
The term "humility" is derived from the Latin word "humilis", which is translated not only as humble but also alternatively as "low", or "from the earth". Because the concept of humility addresses intrinsic self-worth, it is emphasized in the realm of religious practice and ethics where the notion is often made more precise and extensive. Humility as a religious or spiritual virtue is different from the act of humiliation or shaming.

Spiritual views of humility

Humility and its correlation with human spirituality is defined in some depth in the book The Power of Humility, which describes twelve characteristics of humility from a generalized perspective, as opposed to the expectations of an organized religion.
The book indicates that humility is a way towards inner peace, and outlines what the authors believe are the steps toward achieving such.
Spiritual views on humility are contrasted with religious views on humility in that spirituality, by definition, is often personal and thus has a direct impact only on one's particular self or state of being, whereas religious views are generally considered more rigid, wherein a specific set of rules or laws are put in place to govern how modest or audacious is appropriate in a given situation. In other words, spirituality is an avenue through which humility can be shown or explored, but, once more by definition, is not a governing force unless one chooses it to be.
It is generally considered more pleasant to be humble, as being boastful or obnoxious may have the natural consequence of annoying others. This may be why humility is considered a virtuous state of being.

Religious views of humility

Humility in Buddhism

In Buddhism, humility is equivalent to concern of how to be liberated from the sufferings of life and the vexations of the human mind. The ultimate aim is to achieve a state of enlightenment through meditation and other spiritual practices. Humility can also result from achieving the liberation of Nirvana. When one experiences the ultimate Emptiness and non-self, one is free from suffering, vexations and all illusions of self-deception. Humility, compassion and wisdom characterize this state of enlightenment.
Chan (Zen) Master Li Yuansong states that enlightenment can come only after humility - the wisdom of realizing one's own ignorance, insignificance and lowliness, without which one cannot see the truth.

Humility in Christianity

Catholic texts view humility as annexed to the cardinal virtue of temperance. It is viewed as a potential part of temperance because temperance includes all those virtues that refrain or express the inordinate movements of our desires or appetites.
Some other schools of thought, such as Ayn Rand's Objectivism, have seen self-abasement as antithetical to morality.
Humility is considered an important virtue in taoism. The following quote describes how a wise person should see his accomplishments, according to the Tao Te Ching (77.4)
[a wise person] acts without claiming the results as his; he achieves his merit and does not rest (arrogantly) in it: -- he does not wish to display his superiority.
Nietzsche wrote of humility (not to speak of patience, wisdom, and any other virtue lauded widely by the masses) as a weakness, a false virtue which concealed the frailties and hidden crookedness in its holder.
His idealized ubermensch would be more apt to roam around unfettered by pretensions of humility, proud of his stature and power, but not reveling idly in it, and certainly not displaying hubris.


humility in Czech: Pokora
humility in Danish: Ydmyghed
humility in German: Demut
humility in Spanish: Humildad
humility in French: Humilité
humility in Italian: Umiltà
humility in Hebrew: ענווה
humility in Norwegian: Ydmykhet
humility in Polish: Pokora
humility in Portuguese: Humildade
humility in Russian: Смирение (в христианстве)
humility in Slovak: Pokora
humility in Swedish: Ödmjukhet
humility in Ukrainian: Смирення

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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