I looked up this word before, and I got a definition which sounded something like "to do something one considers to be beneath oneself," but I can't remember exactly what the word was.

I can think of a would-be sentence, though, save the tenses:

She displayed a ... as she finally picked up the trash bag and flung it into the waste bin.

Thank you :)

  • 5
    I voted for "deign" and "condescend", but "disgust" may fit to the sentence.
    – Graffito
    Nov 22, 2015 at 20:09
  • 2
    "menial labor" fits the title (but not so much the question content) Nov 22, 2015 at 21:02
  • "She displayed an air of disdain...."
    – Mari-Lou A
    Nov 24, 2015 at 9:17
  • 1
    Note that the sentence is not consistent with the request. The request asks for a verb, wheras the sentence is looking for a noun. Nov 24, 2015 at 23:03
  • may be contempt? "She displayed contempt as she...bin"
    – user13267
    Nov 25, 2015 at 10:52

14 Answers 14


The verb deign means to do something you consider to be beneath your dignity. It doesn't exactly fit in your example sentence - you would use it like

She finally deigned to pick up the trash bag...

  • You can also use disdeign -- "She picked up the trash bag with obvious disdeign."
    – Simba
    Nov 26, 2015 at 13:04
  • 6
    @Simba, I think you mean disdain...
    – DJ Far
    Nov 26, 2015 at 15:10
  • Came here to offer this word :) Nov 27, 2015 at 4:27

Google Books claims 2220 written instances of...

People who] would not stoop to that

stoop (definition 2) - lower one’s moral standards so far as to do something reprehensible

It's a figurative extension from the primary meaning bend one’s head or body forwards and downwards (i.e. - metaphorically drop to a "lower" level of moral standards than normal).

  • 6
    +1 FWIW I like “stooped,” especially in the OP’s context, ‘cause with the infinitive it could have a double meaning (always cool, imo): “She finally stooped to pick up the trash bag… .”, or with the gerund to make it clear that definition 2 was intended: "She finally stooped to picking up the trash bag … .”
    – Papa Poule
    Nov 22, 2015 at 19:58
  • 2
    Doesn't stoop slightly imply that you are reducing yourself to the level of doing the action? It seemed like the OP wanted a word that had no effect on the actor's dignity, just that the action was beneath it. Nov 23, 2015 at 14:38
  • 1
    @SuperBiasedMan: If you do something which is beneath your (normal) dignity, I think there's an unavoidable implication that your dignity has been thereby "reduced". But I will cheerfully admit that stooping [to do something] is far more likely in the negative (you won't do it, so your dignity is preserved). If you actually do the undignified thing, it's more likely you'd condescend to do it (but at some cost to your dignity). Nov 23, 2015 at 15:29

You can use the verb condescend to get the message across:

She finally condescended to pick up the trash bag and fling it into the waste bin.

The verb is often used to show disapproval, so it should fit your example. Definition:

to do something that one regards as below one's dignity

(Collins Dictionary)

If someone condescends to do something, they agree to do it, but in a way which shows that they think they are better than other people and should not have to do it.

(Collins Dictionary for Learners)



She swallowed her pride as she finally picked up the trash bag...

swallow one's pride: fig. to forget one's pride and accept something humiliating. McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs

She finally lowered herself to picking up the trash bag...

lower oneself: to humble oneself; to do something one considers to be beneath one's dignity. Your Dictionary

She got off her high horse as she finally picked up the trash bag...

get off one's high horse and get (down) off one's high horse

: to become humble; to be less haughty. It's about time that you got down off your high horse. Would you get off your high horse and talk to me? McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs

  • 3
    These (the last one in particular) all express a certain amount of disapproval and moral judgement. Which may or may not be what you want.
    – biziclop
    Nov 23, 2015 at 15:04
  • Haaaay man, that horse toootally isn't high.
    – bjb568
    Nov 25, 2015 at 0:51
  • I think these are the best three answers, for the questioner and question as written. Deign is too fancy-ass and is rarely (see the examples here) used correctly.
    – Fattie
    Nov 27, 2015 at 1:26

If you go from a slightly different angle (and don't mind a tinge of archaism), you could use abase.

TheFreeDictionary gives its definition as follows:

a·base (ə-bās′)

tr.v. a·based, a·bas·ing, a·bas·es

To lower in rank, prestige, or esteem. See Synonyms at debase.

And you could use that in a sentence in the following way:

I wouldn't abase myself by descending to hold no conversation with him' replied the Dodger.

Oliver Twist Or The Parish Boy's Progress by Dickens, Charles


demean oneself: Do something that is beneath one’s dignity:

'She demeaned herself as she finally picked up the trash bag and flung it into the waste bin.'

  • 4
    As far as I understand, this would work if the author really thought the lady actually demeaned herself by picking up the trash, which I think is highly unlikely, as the sentence sounds ironic. Do you have a reference where demean is used ironically of someone else?
    – A.P.
    Nov 23, 2015 at 11:48
  • this answer is wrong
    – Fattie
    Nov 27, 2015 at 1:23

The word disdain would fit into your sentence:

  • the feeling that someone or something is unworthy of one's consideration or respect; contempt.

...making the sentence:

She displayed (a) disdain as she finally picked up the trash bag and flung it into the waste bin.

This usage is also often see as:

  • She displayed an air of disdain...

With that said, I agree with another poster that rewording the sentence to make deign work would adhere to (my interpretation of) your intended meaning at least as well or better:

She finally deigned to...

(Hat tip to @dj-far)

  • "an air of disdain" fits better IMO
    – Mari-Lou A
    Nov 24, 2015 at 9:18
  • Good point. I'll update to add this idiom.
    – Nonnal
    Nov 24, 2015 at 14:59
  • Disdain is the attitude or "air" of a person who does the thing we are talking about. It does not mean to do what we are talking about. You don't "disdain to clean the toilets". In this respect, deign is a suitable answer, but disdain is not. Nov 27, 2015 at 4:30

In your example, she may have felt that she had "dirtied her hands", both literally and figuratively. Some people feel demeaned by doing a job they feel is beneath their education or birth or entitlement. (I won't comment on what I think of that.)

get your hands dirty, according to The Free Dictionary: (http://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/get+hands+dirty) "to involve yourself in all parts of a job, including the parts that are unpleasant, or involve hard, practical work. Unlike other bosses, he's not afraid to get his hands dirty and the men like that in him."

There is another meaning, which definitely includes "demeaning", but does not fit your example.

"Dirty your hands" is defined in Cambridge Dictionaries Online (http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/dirty-your-hands) as "to ​become ​involved in something ​unfair or ​dishonest"

Example of this usage: "I refuse to dirty my hands by cheating on my income tax; I would feel as though I had demeaned myself."

  • 2
    "get your hands dirty" is almost exclusively used in the positive sense; as per your example where the men like the boss precisely because he is prepared to "get his hands dirty". Hence I don't find that it means "to do something one considers beneath oneself"; conversely I find that it means "not to consider manual work beneath oneself". Your second phrase "to dirty your hands" means exactly what you quoted it as from the dictionary, and does not carry any connotation of "demeaning".
    – AndyT
    Nov 23, 2015 at 9:47
  • 1
    @Andy Thanks for explaining your downvote. We should agree to disagree.
    – ab2
    Nov 23, 2015 at 10:01
  • You can agree to disagree, but Andy's comment is wrong :) This is probably the best answer for the OP
    – Fattie
    Nov 27, 2015 at 1:24
  • @JoeBlow Wish 77 other people agreed!
    – ab2
    Nov 27, 2015 at 1:30
  • voting on this site is irrational, so don't consider it
    – Fattie
    Nov 27, 2015 at 2:32

If you're insistent on the wording of the rest of the sentence,

She displayed a hauteur worthy of Petit Trianon as she finally picked up the trash bag and flung it into the waste bin.

If you kept the 'a' you would be leaving a clue that you knew that in French it's one of those words that takes la not l'. English and French pronunciation əʊˈtɜ:r/. Or that you were using the American pronunciation promoted by Merriam-Webster, but not used by all Americans hoʊˈtɝ:/.

Definition of HAUTEUR Merriam-Webster

: arrogance, haughtiness

  • 2
    "If you kept the 'a' you would be leaving a clue that you knew that in French it's one of those words that takes la not l'." Or that you simply know that the H is pronounced in ENGLISH. Nov 23, 2015 at 4:03
  • Merriam-Webster seems out on a limb here. U-Tube has another unusual pronunciation from near the Great Lakes. But most (3 others) have silent h
    – Hugh
    Nov 23, 2015 at 12:02
  • 2
    Are you sure it's not "displayed hauteur"? I don't think you can "display a hauteur" unless you are going to refer to a particular kind of one, such as "displayed a rare hauteur".
    – ErikE
    Nov 23, 2015 at 23:38
  • if he's right, click the edit button and fix the answer!
    – Fattie
    Nov 27, 2015 at 1:25
  • 1
    You're absolutely right! Bad question, eh? :) Nov 27, 2015 at 5:12

Infra dig for Infra Dignitatum, in the Latin.

[PREDICATIVE] informal, chiefly British Early 19th century: abbreviation of Latin infra dignitatem 'beneath (one's) dignity'.

  • She regarded playing for the Pony Club as deeply infra dig
  • It seemed, in that perspective, just a little infra dig to enjoin such praise.

(Oxford Dictionaries)

Likewise, one could slightly rephrase the OP's sentence to

She finally picked up the trash bag and flung it into the waste bin, although she considered it a 9 on her infra dig scale.

  • Rescue this answer with the addition of a good example of its usage. By the way, I am not the downvoter.
    – deadrat
    Nov 24, 2015 at 8:22
  • +1 from me. I like the expression, it's a excellent suggestion.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Nov 24, 2015 at 9:14
  • have never heard the phrase! awesome.
    – Fattie
    Nov 27, 2015 at 2:33

For example, consider the following phrase,"What he did was not befitting his stature"

  • This isn't at all a bad suggestion, except that the poster said that he had a particular (but forgotten) single word in mind. Still I don't think that you deserved a downvote for this effort—especially since some other phrase posters received multiple upvotes for their contributions.
    – Sven Yargs
    Nov 25, 2015 at 5:01
  • This describes what he did, it doesn't mean "the act of" or "to do" the act. Hence downvotes. Nov 27, 2015 at 4:32

Perhaps also the word "stoop"

stoop /sto͞op/

lower one's moral standards so far as to do something reprehensible.

"Craig wouldn't stoop to thieving"

synonyms: lower oneself, sink, descend, resort

  • How would you fit this into the OP's example sentence? " she finally stooped to pick up the trash bag and flung it into the waste bin." would just indicate to me that she had to bend down. Nov 25, 2015 at 20:29

I think petty fits well here.

adj. Of small importance; trivial: a petty grievance.

adj. Marked by narrowness of mind, ideas, or views.

adj. Marked by meanness or lack of generosity, especially in trifling matters.


Indignity or beneath ones dignity

"She displayed an indignity by picking up the garbage. ..."

Or an "an undignified act"

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