As a guy who deals with words quite a bit, I often cringe when I hear someone say they are humbled. It usually occurs in situations where they’re being praised or honored. The word, humble, as I understand it doesn’t fit.

I went to the web for help and found there are a lot of people like me who are confused with the use of the word humbled.

By definition…


  1. To curtail or destroy the pride of; humiliate.

  2. To cause to be meek or modest in spirit.

  3. To give a lower condition or station to; abase.

It’s sometimes a curse that writers get caught up in dealing with the English language rather than the clichés of public speaking.

Fortunately, a more practical and less literal mind like mine came up with this explanation…

When someone says “I am humbled,” generally he means that he has been made to feel more modest , or perhaps undeserving. Someone who has just been given a compliment might make a polite show of modesty by saying, “I am humbled by your generosity,” meaning he feels he really doesn’t live up to the compliment. Or, someone might say “I am humbled” when he is confronted by someone or something he perceives to be superior, for instance: “I am humbled in the presence of his (Einstein’s) genius.”

It’s a judgment call about when to use this expression which should not be over-worked. You want to avoid giving the impression of false modesty.

When it comes to being humbled,  we can take advice from  Whitney Houston when she sings, ‘It’s not right, but it’s okay.’