a little bit of humility goes a long way

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Senior Member
Hello. Please, what means the saying " a little bit of humility goes a long way"?

1. Cliches, as I’m sure I’ve written before, are cliches because they are often true. The old saying that a little bit of humility goes a long way is one such example.
A little bit of humility ... | James Evangelidis - Business Consultant

2. A little bit of humility seemed to go a long way, and if the pundits didn’t cut him off too soon he was frequently able to work in a plea for more government support of science. For members of the general public might not care about Wolf-R ayet stars in the Quintuplet Cluster, but they definitely saw why having hot rocks fall on one’s head was a good thing to avoid.

"Seveneves" by Neal Stephenson
  • You little ripper!

    Senior Member
    Australian English
    Go a long way toward

    to be very helpful in achieving something The fire insurance went a long way toward repairing all the damage. The extra money will go a long way to buying a house.

    Have considerable effect or influence on.
    For example, This argument goes a long way toward proving the scientists are wrong, or, as Eudora Welty put it in The Ponder Heart (1954): "It went a long way toward making him touchy about what Uncle Daniel had gone and done."


    Senior Member
    Native language: English (BrE)
    The example you've quoted, Nastya, is more about the the definition or the qualities of humility than about the "little bit" part of the expression.

    This is reflected in LC's reply (#2), which perfectly addresses the meaning of this particular example, as described in the linked article by James Evangelidis, but doesn't address the "little bit" element (that seems to have fallen quietly off the back of the truck along the way, without anyone noticing;)). In fact the idea that "humility is a positive thing which is often appreciated: people are less likely to want to help an arrogant person" could equally well have been represented by the expression "Humility works wonders".

    The answers you've been given so far do address the particular case in question (and sound shift even included a mention of "just a little"), but I'd just like to add a comment about the expression "A little bit of ..... goes a long way" as it's generally used. Usually it means that you need only a small amount of something to achieve a certain result or effect.

    For example, in a recipe you might see the warning "Be careful with the garlic. A little bit of garlic goes a long way." This is said because garlic has a very strong taste, and so you need only a little of it. Similarly "Brand X floor cleaner is extremely economical, because just a few drops of Brand X go a long way."

    Coming back to humility ... If the aim is to say simply that humility is very effective when working with clients, then I think Mr Evangelidis has chosen the wrong cliché. He could have used, for example (as I suggested earlier) ,"Humility works wonders". When I read "A little bit of humility goes a long way", I expect there to be some implication or argument that just a little humility is very effective, and so you don't need to apply much. This might be the case if the author were suggesting, say, that a speaker should open a presentation with one or two comments that establish his humility, but shouldn't stress it any further, to avoid overkill. There is no such implication in JamesE's article.

    PS. Clearly this present post of mine is critical. If it were true that "a little bit of criticism goes a long way", and if I knew how to apply that, then my post would have been shorter!:oops::D

    [Edit: typo]
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    — Got plans for Mother's Day?
    — I'm taking my little boy to the amusement park. Supposed to be my day, yet he gets all the fun. That's okay. When he's older, I'll let him make it up to me.
    A little guilt goes a long way.

    The Machinist, film

    Hello, I got the general meaning of the expression, but still don't understand what it means in the extract above.

    edit: does it refer to the guilt the kid is supposed to feel (it's his mother's day and yet he gets all the fun)?
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    sound shift

    Senior Member
    English - England
    edit: does it refer to the guilt the kid is supposed to feel (it's his mother's day and yet he gets all the fun)?
    I imagine so. It appears to mean that the boy's guilt will be sufficient to persuade him to "make it up" to his mother several years later, when he's able to do so. It appears to be an attempt at humour.
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