Hubris Meaning: Here’s What It Means and How To Use It

This guide will help you learn the meaning of hubris through definitions, origins, synonyms, antonyms, examples, and more so you can use hubris correctly.

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When you hear a new descriptive word, you may not know if the word is meant to be positive or negative. If you’re reading the word, you may not even know how to pronounce the word properly. 

To give your vocabulary more depth, you must take the time to learn words’ definitions. Let’s start with hubris.

What Is the Definition of the Word Hubris?

According to the dictionary, hubris is a noun pronounced hu-bris. Hubris is defined as exaggerated self-confidence and pride. It can also be defined as arrogance.

According to the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 5th edition, hubris is an overbearing pride or presumption.

The adjectival form of the noun hubris is hubristic (adj), and hubris (n) is the root word of the adverb hubristically (adv). 

What Is the Origin of the Word Hubris?

Etymology is the history of a word. It’s interesting to see how far back a word goes and whether its meaning has always stayed the same. Hubris has Indo-European roots tracing back to Ancient Greece.

The modern use of the word hubris comes from the Greek hybris or hybristikos, from the Greek hybrizein. Hybris means “wanton violence, insolence, or outrage,” and it originally meant “presumption toward the gods.” We see it used as a transgression against the gods by ancient Greek poets like Aeschylus and Hesiod.

Hubris is often considered to be synonymous with the term arrogance. Arrogance comes from the Latin adrogare, which means “to feel that one has a right to demand certain attitudes and behaviors from other people.” 

In Greek, arrogate means “to claim or to seize without right, without justification” or “to ascribe without reason.”

Hubris is also closely associated with the term pretension, but pretension is not synonymous with hubris. These terms — hubris, pretension, and arrogance— are mostly tied together by the need for victory.

How Do We Use the Word Hubris?

In Greek mythology, we see the occasional pairing of hubris and nemesis. Hubris is often associated with ignorance, and it is often the tragic flaw of the heroes in Greek tragedies. 

In Ancient Greece, hubris referred to “outrage” or actions that violated the natural order. It is also related to shaming or humiliating a victim. Sometimes, the word would have a sexual connotation. 

There are a couple of examples of hubris in Greek mythology. Arachne was transformed into a spider after claiming her skills were greater than those the goddess Athena possessed. Some other examples of hubris in Greek mythology include:

  • Icarus
  • Salmoneus
  • Phaethon
  • Niobe
  • Cassiopeia
  • Tereus
  • Tantalus

In the Ancient Legal World

Hubristic law violations can include sexual crimes, assault and battery, or theft of sacred or public property. We can find examples of this in two speeches by the ancient Greek orator and prominent statesman Demosthenes. The first speech was “Against Midias,” and the other was “Against Conon.” 

In the first, Midias punched Demosthenes in the face in a theater. In Against Conon, a victim was allegedly assaulted and then crowed over by the defendant. 

Another legal example from history is Aeschines’ Against Timarchus. To prevent Timarchus from the rights of political office, Aeschine brought a suit that accused Timarchus of breaking the law of hubris through submitting to anal intercourse and prostitution.

Rush Rehm, a professor of theater and publisher in Greek tragedy and contemporary politics, defined hubris as “insolence, contempt, and excessive violence.” 

In ancient Athens, hubris had a similar definition as the use of violence to shame a victim. Aristotle believed and defined hubris as shaming the victim. He believed that it was done for the offender’s gratification. 

Modern Usage

In modern usage, a person’s hubris is often associated with ignorance. The term, as a characteristic of an individual or a personality quality, is not a contemporary concept. It is typically an overestimation of a person’s competence. This leads to an exaggerated idea of one’s accomplishments and capabilities. 

At other times, an accusation of hubris indicates that punishment or suffering will follow if the accusation of hubris is determined to be true. Hubris is also closely tied to a lack of humility. 

The term hubris is sometimes defined as “pride that blinds” because a person’s hubris causes them to behave with a haughty spirit that defies logic and often leads to their destruction. 

Hubris can be described as overconfident pride, overweening pride, or excess ambition.

In the book Mere Christianity, author C. S. Lewis wrote that pride — in essence, hubris— is the “anti-god state” where the ego and the self are in direct opposition to God. This is a similar depiction as in the Greek tragedies where hubris was the tragic flaw.

What Are the Synonyms of the Word Hubris?

Synonyms help us fully understand a word’s definition. Synonyms have essentially the same meaning as the word you’re learning, and you will often find words you do already understand that relate to the word. Here are some synonyms for the word hubris:

  • Arrogance
  • Audacity
  • Cockiness
  • Vanity
  • Pretension
  • Brass
  • Cheek
  • Airs
  • Self-importance
  • Conceitedness
  • Insolence
  • Loftiness
  • Pretentiousness

What Are the Antonyms of the Word Hubris?

Antonyms also help to further our understanding of a word that we’re learning because they have the opposite meaning. By learning what a word does not mean, you can hone in on the actual meaning. Here are antonyms for the word hubris:

  • Humility
  • Timidity
  • Respect
  • Modesty

What Are Some Examples of the Word Hubris?

Example sentences are the best way to see how a word is used in context. When you see the word used in example sentences, you’ll be better prepared to use it appropriately and have a deeper understanding of the meaning of the word. 

Here are example sentences using the word hubris:

  • The justification of otherwise abhorrent actions with mere Christianity takes a certain hubris that I don’t possess.
  • It takes real hubris to ignore the CDC and the warnings regarding COVID-19.
  • Hubris must be heavy because, like the Biblical book of Proverbs says, “Pride goeth before a fall.”
  • Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein character Victor’s hubris was his best quality and biggest flaw.
  • Apathy and hubris led to Flint’s public health crisis.

The Last Word

Hubris might not have been part of your vocabulary before now. Hopefully, the next time you encounter someone with excessive pride, an excess of confidence, or arrogance, you’ll know just what to call that element that’s so off-putting. 


  1. Hubris Definition & Meaning | 
  2. Hubris | AH Dictionary 
  3. Rush Rehm | Stanford Department of Classics