What is the difference, if any, between humility and humiliation?

My friend's dad said humility is good, humiliation is bad, and the first link on Google says "leaders often confuse the two," but doesn't really define the two.

I figured they both were the same (I must be a bad leader) because they both look similar.


  1. Can I get a clarification on the difference between the two?
  2. Is it bad to assume that employers during the interview process can tell the difference between the two? My thought is yes, it is bad to assume that because everyone knows what humiliation is (bad), but not humility; so they will automatically think you're talking about something negative.
  3. How would you use humility in a sentence?

closed as general reference by bib, coleopterist, Andrew Leach, MetaEd, Barrie England Sep 1 '12 at 7:04

This question is too basic; it can be definitively and permanently answered by a single link to a standard internet reference source designed specifically to find that type of information. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • 6
    What did you find when you looked up the words in a dictionary? – Andrew Leach Aug 31 '12 at 15:41
  • There is no humility without humiliation. – JSBձոգչ Aug 31 '12 at 21:10
  • 1
    -1 No research shown. Please see the faq. – MetaEd Sep 1 '12 at 3:56

Ditto to Olga.


  • Bob showed great humility when he refused to take credit for the victory.

  • Bob suffered great humiliation when it was discovered that he had falsely claimed credit for the victory.

If you are humilitated during a job interview, you probably will not get the job. That might mean that they discovered that you had lied on your résumé, etc.

If you show humility during a job interview, if the employer realizes that that’s what you’re doing, that would probably be good. Of course job applicants are often warned not to be too humble on an interview, because the employer may not realize that you are understating your achievements, and so may think less of you than they should.

Like the old saying goes, when you’re trying to sell something: Don’t say the glass is half empty. Say it’s full.

  • I meant, do employers understand the difference between the two. I showed great humility when leading the team. Can I assume the interviewer knows the difference between the two? If I wasn't taught it, how do I know they were. – Kcvin Aug 31 '12 at 19:58
  • Yes, I'm pretty sure any employer would know the difference between humility and humiliation. Let me say it another way: Humility is modesty, not thinking too much of yourself, not bragging. Humiliation is embarassment, being shown to be a fool or to have done something unethical. They are completely different things, not easily confused. – Jay Sep 4 '12 at 15:20

Actually, the difference is obvious when you look up the definitions. 1. "humility - a way of behaving that shows that you do not think that you are better or more important than other people" 2. "humiliation - the unhappy and ashamed feeling that you get when something embarrassing happens". Both taken from MacMillan dictionary.

So right, the first one in the way of behaviour, quality of a person. A good one often. The second - bad feeling.

  • Macmillan, not MacMillan. – Alex B. Aug 31 '12 at 19:55

It's easy to set them apart.

Aside from checking the dictionary definition of each, you might find it helpful to consider their adjective counterparts:

humility = humble

humiliation = humiliated (this is actually a verbal adjective)


He is very humble about his achievements.


He was humiliated to find that his girlfriend could run faster than he could.

In your second question, you're worried that employers during job interviews wouldn't know the difference between the two words even if you knew it.

Here I'm assuming two things: First, job interviews are being conducted in English in your place but, second, people are not very proficient in the language.

This is a tough situation but I'd say your options are still quite obvious: (1) you have to stick to what's right and not run the risk of coming across as ignorant yourself by pretending not to know, (2) you could try avoiding the term (there are many other expressions you can use in an interview, the adjective form included) but then why are the employers conducting interviews in English in the first place, if they're so bad at it?, (3) a qualified interviewer would know and also appreciate your knowledge of the difference, or (4) just find a better company to apply to if the interviewer misunderstands you.

P.S. For your third question:

He accepted the honor with humility.

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