What does Sir Kazuo Ishiguro mean by a humbling experience in the following? ”Humbling" in this context cannot mean "something makes him feel insignificant or inferior" as some dictionaries define, can it?

Sir Kazou, 64, was today knighted for services to literature by Prince Charles at Buckingham Palace. Speaking afterwards, the best-selling author described it as 〈a 'humbling experience'〉. He added: 'It is all part of my story of coming from a different country and growing up in this country. ' 'It is part of my big love affair with Britain and British culture.'

  • Think about it: All the pomp and regalia of a royal court, for someone with a relatively undistinguished background. From what I can tell he was born in post-WWII Japan, immigrated to England at the age of 5, probably had a decent middle-class upbringing but went to public schools -- nothing hoity-toity. Being brought into the royal court and knighted would be almost disorienting, from a social class standpoint. (But note that this use of the term is slightly different from, say, "humbling" in the sense of being revealed to be a fraud or criminal.)
    – Hot Licks
    Feb 11, 2019 at 1:26
  • A knighthood should represent a step-up from big fish in a little pond. Being knighted puts one among peers, some of whom are really big deals. Recognizing that you are among giants can be a humbling experience for a person given to humility.
    – remarkl
    Feb 11, 2019 at 1:30

1 Answer 1


Yes, indeed, it can and does mean "something that makes him feel insignificant or inferior" in this situation. Although he was being knighted, and therefore singled out as significant and elevated in status, that does not mean the experience made him feel that way. He probably felt, even as a Knight, that he was insignificant and inferior compared to the other people at the ceremony, such as the other people being knighted, and of course Prince Charles.

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