Source: Oxford Dictionaries
Amy: [while judging her friends’ sandcastle contest] It’s so hard to choose a winner.
Sonic: It probably doesn’t matter, Amy.
Amy: Because the beach is the hourglass of nature, and time will wipe clean what we and our hubris have built as everlasting?
Sonic: No, because of the ginormous storm that’s about to hit.
– Sonic Boom (Season 1, Episode 50 – Cabin Fever)
That’s right, I somehow pulled another vocabulary word out of a Sonic the Hedgehog cartoon! I’m sure there are a dozen other context examples of “hubris” that I could have used instead, but I chose this one for being the funniest. Plus I’m a dork. Anyway…
In the above scene, Amy is judging her friends’ sandcastle contest when Sonic notes that there’s no point in choosing a winner now. Amy then attempts a poetic comment on nature’s power to diminish people’s self-importance, which falls flat when Sonic simply attributes the contest’s futility to the storm clouds that literally just appeared out of nowhere. Though if you think about it, isn’t Sonic basically confirming Amy’s critique of “hubris” in a more immediate and comical light?
A person’s “hubris” is their extreme pride or confidence in themselves. The word dates back as far as Ancient Greek, when it was used in the sense “insolence” or “outrage”. In its ancient context, this noun typically referred to excessive and violent behavior as opposed to an attitude.
Another ancient use of the word “hubris” is as a Greek tragedy term meaning “excessive pride toward or defiance of the gods, leading to nemesis”. In Ancient Greece, it referred to actions that were deliberately humiliating and shameful to the victim (to a degree too gruesome to be explained in this family-friendly post). Today, the word “hubris” simply denotes overconfidence, and in many contexts tends to border on narcissism. If you write characters who are exaggeratedly proud or full of themselves, you may find yourself having to accommodate some “hubris” in your stories!
What are your thoughts on this word? Any suggestions for future “Word of the Week” featured words?