or hum·ble brag

[ huhm-buhl-brag ]
/ ˈhʌm bəlˌbræg /
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a statement intended as a boast or brag but disguised by a humble apology, complaint, etc.
verb (used without object)
to make such a disguised boast or brag: He's humblebragging about how tired he is from his world travels.
Were you ready for a quiz on this topic? Well, here it is! See how well you can differentiate between the uses of "was" vs. "were" in this quiz.
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“Was” is used for the indicative past tense of “to be,” and “were” is only used for the subjunctive past tense.

Origin of humblebrag

First recorded in 2005–10; humble + brag


hum·ble·brag·ger, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What does humblebrag mean?

When you want to boast but pretend to be modest about it, or if you gripe about something most people would desire, you’re humblebragging. The term, and practice, is especially common on social media.

Example: Ugh, my phone is so old! I’m embarrassed to take it with me during my dates with supermodels and actors.

Where does humblebrag come from?

Humblebrag is a compound (and oxymoron) of the words humble and brag. The word is commonly credited to Harris Wittels, a writer and producer for the TV sitcom Parks and Recreation, who created the Twitter account @Humblebrag in 2010.

After noticing a trend of social media users posting modest or self-deprecating posts that actually just bragged about something or complained about something desirable, Wittels created @Humblebrag to aggregate examples. Examples were especially common from celebrities. For instance:


Humblebrag quickly caught on as a word and phenomenon. It just lost out to the word occupy as the American Dialect Society’s 2011 Word of the Year. Wittels even went on to write a book about it, Humblebrag: The Art of False Modesty, in 2012.

By the late 2010s, behavior on social media came under increasing scrutiny. Major outlets like HuffPost, Time, and CNBC published popular articles discussing scientific research into the risks of excessive humblebragging. (Turns out, we humans really like sincerity after all, eh?)

How is humblebrag used in real life?

One can humblebrag, engage in humblebragging, or issue a humblebrag. A person given to humblebragging may even (jocularly) be called a humblebraggart. The term finds a lot of use on social media, where people attempt that great balancing act of making themselves look great without coming across as too egotistical.

As noted above, celebrities are especially accused of humblebragging.

But we’re all guilty of the humblebrag. We might even use the hashtag #humblebrag when we want to celebrate a win but acknowledge that no one likes a show-off. Used in this way, humblebrag comes across much more endearingly.

More examples of humblebrag:

“Don’t take that as an excuse to humblebrag, which research has shown won’t win you any friends.”
—Jamie Ducharme, Time, August 2018

“It wasn’t all good… we did have to buy an extra shelf for the ESPY trophy for Best Finish. #humblebrag”
—@WKUBasketball, August 2015


This content is not meant to be a formal definition of this term. Rather, it is an informal summary that seeks to provide supplemental information and context important to know or keep in mind about the term’s history, meaning, and usage.

How to use humblebrag in a sentence