a modest or low view of one's own importance; humbleness.
ORIGIN Middle English : from Old French humilite, from Latin humilitas, from humilis (see humble ).
adjective ( humbler , humblest )
1 having or showing a modest or low estimate of one's own importance : he was humble about his stature as one of rock history's most influential guitarists.
• (of an action or thought) offered with or affected by such an estimate of one's own importance : my humble apologies.
2 of low social, administrative, or political rank : she came from a humble, unprivileged background.
• (of a thing) of modest pretensions or dimensions : he built the business empire from humble beginnings.
verb [ trans. ]
lower (someone) in dignity or importance : I knew he had humbled himself to ask for my help.
• (usu. be humbled) decisively defeat (another team or competitor, typically one that was previously thought to be superior) : humbled by his political opponents.
humbly |-blē| adverb
ORIGIN Middle English : from Old French, from Latin humilis ‘low, lowly,’ from humus ‘ground.’
THE RIGHT WORD
While all of these verbs mean to lower in one's own estimation or in the eyes of others, there are subtle distinctions among them.
Humble and humiliate sound similar, but humiliate emphasizes shame and the loss of self-respect and usually takes place in public (: humiliated by her tearful outburst), while humble is a milder term implying a lowering of one's pride or rank (: to humble the arrogant professor by pointing out his mistake).
Abase suggests groveling or a sense of inferiority and is usually used reflexively (: got down on his knees and abased himself before the king), while demean is more likely to imply a loss of dignity or social standing (: refused to demean herself by marrying a common laborer).
When used to describe things, debase means a deterioration in the quality or value of something (: a currency debased by the country's political turmoil), but in reference to people it connotes a weakening of moral standards or character (: debased himself by accepting bribes).
Degrade is even stronger, suggesting the destruction of a person's character through degenerate or shameful behavior (: degraded by long association with criminals).