me·​di·​o·​cre ˌmē-dē-ˈō-kər How to pronounce mediocre (audio)
: of moderate or low quality, value, ability, or performance : ordinary, so-so

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The Enduring Moderation of Mediocre

One of the things that is remarkable about mediocre is the extent to which it has retained its meaning over the course of more than four centuries of continual use. The word, when used as an adjective, has changed very little, if at all, in its meaning since it was used in a 1586 book titled The English Secretorie (our earliest known evidence): “Mediocre, a meane betwixt high and low, vehement and slender, too much and too little as we saye. . . .” The word comes to English via Middle French from the Latin word mediocris, meaning "of medium size, moderate, middling, commonplace," and perhaps originally "halfway to the top." The noun form of mediocre is mediocrity.

Example Sentences

They sensed that mediocre students like Roosevelt really did possess a set of virtues that needed to be protected and cherished. David Brooks, New York Times Book Review, 6 Nov. 2005 Of course, it could be that what Wesley has been through steeled his nerves and transformed him from a mediocre point guard into one of the fiercest shooters in the league with the game on the line. Chad Millman, ESPN, 14 May 2001 In short, they'd have to build a first-rate health-care system out of the shantytown's mediocre one—a system that would administer those drugs reliably and keep the patients' spirits up, because the second-line drugs are weak and have unpleasant side effects, which a patient has to endure for as much as two years. Tracy Kidder, New Yorker, 10 July 2000 The dinner was delicious, but the dessert was mediocre. The carpenter did a mediocre job. The critics dismissed him as a mediocre actor. See More
Recent Examples on the Web The defense is vulnerable against the run and the pass rush has been mediocre at best. cleveland, 13 Nov. 2022 Nearly two-thirds of respondents believe companies are mediocre or worse at delivering their climate commitments and fewer than half of people trust CEOs to tell the truth about climate change, much less what needs to be done to address it. Time, 8 Nov. 2022 Look for the Horned Frogs’ offense to draw praise while the committee questions a mediocre-or-worse defense and the lack of game control in comeback wins against Oklahoma State and Kansas State. Paul Myerberg, USA TODAY, 1 Nov. 2022 Since his Super Bowl victory nearly 12 years ago, though, Rodgers’ play in the postseason has ranged between mediocre and abysmal. Rob Reischel, Forbes, 6 July 2022 Mahomes has been great, ranking atop the Sports Illustrated QB index this week, but the Kansas City defense is mediocre thus far. Ian Firstenberg, Chicago Tribune, 11 Oct. 2022 At the consumer level, the technology for small fixtures is often mediocre at best. Rachel Klein, Popular Mechanics, 25 Sep. 2022 The Sun Devils are mediocre, with the turmoil and turnover in their coaching regime not helping one iota. Gordon Monson, The Salt Lake Tribune, 25 Sep. 2022 And that’s the thing, back then, Buffalo was mediocre, and the Dolphins were worse. Ben Crandell, Sun Sentinel, 23 Sep. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'mediocre.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History


borrowed from Middle French & Latin; Middle French, borrowed from Latin mediocris "of medium size, moderate, middling, commonplace," perhaps originally "halfway to the top," from medius "middle, central" + -ocris, adjective derivative from the base of Old Latin ocris "rugged mountain," going back to Indo-European *h2oḱ-r-i- "point, peak, edge" (whence also Umbrian ukar, ocar "citadel," Middle Irish ochair "edge, border," Welsh ochr, Greek ókris "top, point, corner"), derivative of *h2eḱ- "pointed" — more at mid entry 1, edge entry 1

Note: The base *h2oḱ-r-i- forms a pair with *h2eḱ-r- "sharp, pointed" (see acro-) and the two have been explained as part of an original "acrostatic" paradigm of a noun, with fixed stress on the root, o-vocalism in the direct cases and e-vocalism in the oblique cases, with Indo-European daughter languages generalizing one form or another. Note that Greek has both ókris, as above, and ákris "hilltop, mountain peak." Perhaps also belonging here is Sanskrit aśri- "corner, angle, edge" (see at acro-), where the vowel may be either *a or *o.

First Known Use

circa 1586, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of mediocre was circa 1586

Dictionary Entries Near mediocre

Cite this Entry

“Mediocre.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 7 Dec. 2022.

Kids Definition


me·​di·​o·​cre ˌmēd-ē-ˈō-kər How to pronounce mediocre (audio)
: of medium or low quality : ordinary
a mediocre performance

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