Illustration for John Milton's Paradise Lost by Gustave Doré (1866). The spiritual descent of Lucifer into Satan is one of the most famous examples of hubris.

Hubris (s/, from ancient Greek ὕβρις) describes a personality quality of extreme or foolish pride or dangerous overconfidence,[1] often in combination with (or synonymous with) arrogance.[2] In its ancient Greek context, it typically describes behavior that defies the norms of behavior or challenges the gods which, in turn, brings about the downfall or nemesis of the perpetrator of hubris. The adjectival form of the noun hubris is "hubristic".

Hubris is usually perceived as a characteristic of an individual rather than a group, although the group the offender belongs to may suffer collateral consequences from the wrongful act. Hubris often indicates a loss of contact with reality and an overestimation of one's own competence, accomplishments or capabilities.

Ancient Greek origin

Common use

In ancient Greek, hubris referred to “outrage“: actions that violated natural order, or which shamed and humiliated the victim, sometimes for the pleasure or gratification of the abuser. In some contexts, the term had a sexual connotation.[3] Shame was frequently reflected upon the perpetrator, as well.[4]

In legal terms, hubristic violations of the law included what might today be termed assault and battery; sexual crimes; or the theft of public or sacred property. Two well-known cases are found in the speeches of Demosthenes, a prominent statesman and orator in ancient Greece. These two examples occurred when first Midias punched Demosthenes in the face in the theatre (Against Midias), and second when (in Against Conon) a defendant allegedly assaulted a man and crowed over the victim. Yet another example of hubris appears in Aeschines' Against Timarchus, where the defendant, Timarchus, is accused of breaking the law of hubris by submitting himself to prostitution and anal intercourse. Aeschines brought this suit against Timarchus to bar him from the rights of political office and his case succeeded.[5]

In ancient Athens, hubris was defined as the use of violence to shame the victim (this sense of hubris could also characterize rape).[6] Aristotle defined hubris as shaming the victim, not because of anything that happened to the committer or might happen to the committer, but merely for that committer's own gratification:

to cause shame to the victim, not in order that anything may happen to you, nor because anything has happened to you, but merely for your own gratification. Hubris is not the requital of past injuries; this is revenge. As for the pleasure in hubris, its cause is this: naive men think that by ill-treating others they make their own superiority the greater.[7][failed verification][8][9]

Crucial to this definition are the ancient Greek concepts of honour (τιμή, timē) and shame (αἰδώς, aidōs). The concept of honour included not only the exaltation of the one receiving honour, but also the shaming of the one overcome by the act of hubris. This concept of honour is akin to a zero-sum game. Rush Rehm simplifies this definition of hubris to the contemporary concept of "insolence, contempt, and excessive violence".[10]

Religious use

The Greek word for sin, hamartia (ἁμαρτία), originally meant "error" in the ancient dialect, and so poets like Hesiod and Aeschylus used the word "hubris" to describe transgressions against the gods.[11] A common way that hubris was committed was when a mortal claimed to be better than a god in a particular skill or attribute. Claims like these were rarely left unpunished, and so Arachne, a talented young weaver, was transformed into a spider when she said that her skills exceeded those of the goddess Athena. Additional examples include Icarus, Phaethon, Salmoneus, Niobe, Cassiopeia, Tantalus, and Tereus.

These events were not limited to myth, and certain figures in history were considered to be have been punished for committing hubris through their arrogance. One such person was king Xerxes as portrayed in Aeschylus's play The Persians, and who allegedly threw chains to bind the Hellespont sea as punishment for daring to destroy his fleet.

What is common to all these examples is the breaching of limits, as the Greeks believed that the Fates (Μοῖραι) had assigned each being with a particular area of freedom, an area that even the gods could not breach.[12]


The goddess Hybris has been described as having "insolent encroachment upon the rights of others".[13]

Other Languages
العربية: تكبر
български: Хюбрис
brezhoneg: Hybris
català: Hybris
čeština: Hybris
dansk: Hybris
Deutsch: Hybris
Ελληνικά: Ύβρις
español: Hibris
فارسی: تکبر
français: Hybris
galego: Hybris
հայերեն: Հուբրիս
íslenska: Hybris
italiano: Hybris
עברית: היבריס
magyar: Hübrisz
Nederlands: Hybris (Oudgrieks)
日本語: ヒュブリス
norsk: Hybris
پښتو: تکبر
polski: Hybris
português: Húbris
română: Hybris
русский: Гибрис
Simple English: Arrogance
slovenčina: Hybris (pýcha)
Soomaaliga: Kibirnimada
suomi: Hybris
தமிழ்: ஆணவம்
українська: Гібрис
中文: 傲慢