Difference Between Humility and Modesty

Key Difference – Humility vs. Modesty


Humility and Modesty are two nouns that can often be very confusing to most people as they consider humility and modesty as synonyms. This, however, is inaccurate as humility and modesty are two words between which a key difference can be identified. Humility refers to the quality of being humble. A person who is humble often has a low opinion of himself. Modesty is being unassuming in the estimation of one’s abilities. The key difference between humility and modesty is that while modesty is merely a moderate stance that an individual embraces, humility goes beyond this. It is a virtue that allows the individual to look into himself and accept his limitations and flaws. As you can see, humility is the greater virtue in comparison to modesty. In this article, we will be examining the differences between these two words.

What is Humility?

Humility refers to a quality of being humble or having a moderate opinion of ourselves. This should not be understood as a negative feature. On the contrary, humility is considered as one of the greatest virtues. In many religions such as Buddhism, Christianity humility is often appreciated and believed to be a quality that needs to be developed.

Being humble allows us to explore ourselves. In other words, it assists us to investigate our strengths, weakness, abilities and mistakes internally. This is why it is often referred to as an internal gaze. Some believe that being humble is lowering our opinion of ourselves or criticizing ourselves for past mistakes. This is a false conception because humility does not entail criticism or condescension. It entails a true understanding of ourselves which is neither affected or changed due to others opinions or behavior.

Difference Between Humility and Modesty

What is Modesty?

Modesty refers to being unassuming in the estimation of one’s abilities. A person who is modest usually does not brag about his abilities, behavior, or appearance. He or she also does not attempt to catch the attention of others in order to be flattered. This allows the individual to develop a moderate appreciation of his self.

However, most people in the society today display a false sense of modesty to be appreciated by others. This is usually a pretense. The key characteristic of modesty is that it allows the individual to be moderate of his abilities in front of others. It is in this instance that the difference between modesty and humility also emerge. In modesty, the individual is concerned about others as he desires to be unassuming of his abilities in the face of the society, but in humility the individual is concerned about himself internally.

Key Difference - Humility vs Modesty

What is the difference between Humility and Modesty?

Definitions of Humility and Modesty:

Humility: Humility refers to the quality of being humble.

Modesty: Modesty is being unassuming in the estimation of one’s abilities.

Characteristics of Humility and Modesty:


Humility: Humility is internal.

Modesty: Modesty is external.


Humility: Humility is considered as a true virtue that has a lot of depths.

Modesty: Modesty does not carry as much depth as humility.


Humility: In humility, we are concerned about how we see ourselves and our abilities.

Modesty: In modesty, we are concerned about how others see our abilities.


Image Courtesy:

1. “Rochdale Unitarian Church “Humility”” by Phillip Medhurst – Own work. [CC BY-SA 3.0] via Commons

2. ‘Conversion of the Magdalene’ or ‘Allegory of Modesty and Vanity’ By Bernardo Luini [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons