What is the difference between the words "humble" and  "humility"?  

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teachersage eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Humble is the adjective that describes a person or thing that is modest, simple or lowly. Humble can also function as a verb: one can humble oneself, which means to bring oneself low, behave modestly, or make oneself vulnerable. Humility, on the other hand, though it means the same thing, is an attribute, which makes it a noun. A person can have the quality of humility as a character trait, indicating that he or she is not full of self-importance or pride, but, instead, without an inflated opinion of one's worth. While an object can be humble, such as a humble cottage, which would imply a small, simple dwelling, only humans have the trait of humility.

In our culture, humbleness and humility can be seen as negative traits: we are often urged to push ourselves forward, publicize ourselves and make sure everyone knows about our accomplishments. Humbleness can be seen as being low in a hierarchy or poor. It can be perceived as powerlessness. On the other hand, we can quickly become irritated and turned off by people who are constantly bragging about their accomplishments or refuse to credit those who helped them. We often admire people who don't flaunt their credentials or their wealth or who live very simply so that they can help others.

Further, humbleness and humility are tied to religion in our culture, especially Christianity, where humility is seen as a virtue, a positive trait that takes spiritual work and discipline to attain. In a religious context, humility often means recognizing that we are created by God and interconnected with and dependent on others and nature. As Christian writer C.S. Lewis puts it, framing humility as a virtue, "true humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less." In such faith groups as Quakers, Amish or Mennonites, humility or "getting" low is a trait people strive for, as it is believed to bring one closer to God.

Both humble and humility have the same meaning: whether the terms are negative or positive in connotation depends on the context. 

kathik eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The words "humble" and "humility" come from the same root word, "humilis." Humilis is Latin for "low or close to the ground." Humble is an adjective, so it is used to describe someone, whereas humility is a noun. They both basically mean the same thing. Someone who is humble is not arrogant or overly proud. He/she is modest and does not think he/she is better than anyone else. The word can also be used as a verb, such as in "The man humbled himself when he asked for assistance from the child." An example of humble as an adjective would be, "Dr. Jacobs is a humble person in spite of her thriving practice."

"Humility" is the noun form of the same word basically meaning "a modest view of one's own importance." Someone with humility does not put himself/herself above others. An example would be, "Because the attorney was so successful, his humility around other lawyers always surprised me."

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