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Allegory of pride, from c. 1590–1630, engraving, 22.3 cm × 16.6 cm, in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York City)

Pride is defined by Merriam-Webster as "reasonable self-esteem" or "confidence and satisfaction in oneself".[1] Oxford defines it as "the quality of having an excessively high opinion of oneself or one's own importance."[2] Pride may be related to one's own abilities or achievements, positive characteristics of friends or family, or one's country. Richard Taylor defined pride as "the justified love of oneself",[3] as opposed to false pride or narcissism. Similarly, St. Augustine defined it as "the love of one's own excellence",[4] and Meher Baba called it "the specific feeling through which egoism manifests."[5]

Philosophers and social psychologists have noted that pride is a complex secondary emotion that requires the development of a sense of self and the mastery of relevant conceptual distinctions (e.g. that pride is distinct from happiness and joy) through language-based interaction with others.[6] Some social psychologists identify the nonverbal expression of pride as a means of sending a functional, automatically perceived signal of high social status.[7]

Pride may be considered the opposite of shame or of humility,[8] sometimes as proper or as a virtue, and sometimes as corrupt or as a vice. With a positive connotation, pride refers to a content sense of attachment toward one's own or another's choices and actions, or toward a whole group of people, and is a product of praise, independent self-reflection, and a fulfilled feeling of belonging. Other possible objects of pride are one's ethnicity, and one's sex identity (for example LGBT pride). With a negative connotation pride refers to a foolishly[9] and irrationally corrupt sense of one's personal value, status or accomplishments,[10] used synonymously with hubris.

While some philosophers such as Aristotle (and George Bernard Shaw) consider pride (but not hubris) a profound virtue, some world religions consider pride's fraudulent form a sin, such as is expressed in Proverbs 11:2 of the Hebrew Bible. In Judaism, pride is called the root of all evil. When viewed as a virtue, pride in one's abilities is known as virtuous pride, greatness of soul, or magnanimity, but when viewed as a vice it is often known to be self-idolatry, sadistic contempt, vanity, or vainglory.


Proud comes from late Old English prut, probably from Old French prud "brave, valiant" (11th century) (which became preux in French), from Late Latin term prodis "useful", which is compared with the Latin prodesse "be of use".[11] The sense of "having a high opinion of oneself", not in French, may reflect the Anglo-Saxons' opinion of the Norman knights who called themselves "proud".[12]

Ancient Greek philosophy[edit]

Aristotle identified pride (megalopsuchia, variously translated as proper pride, the greatness of soul and magnanimity)[13] as the crown of the virtues, distinguishing it from vanity, temperance, and humility, thus:

By a high-minded man we seem to mean one who claims much and deserves much: for he who claims much without deserving it is a fool; but the possessor of a virtue is never foolish or silly. The man we have described, then, is high-minded. He who deserves little and claims little is temperate [or modest], but not high-minded: for high-mindedness [or greatness of soul] implies greatness, just as beauty implies stature; small men may be neat and well proportioned, but cannot be called beautiful.[14]

He concludes then that

High-mindedness, then, seems to be the crowning grace, as it were, of the virtues; it makes them greater, and cannot exist without them. And on this account it is a hard thing to be truly high-minded; for it is impossible without the union of all the virtues.[14]

By contrast, Aristotle defined the vice of hubris as follows:

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.[15]

Thus, although pride and hubris are often deemed the same thing, for Aristotle and many philosophers hubris is an entirely different thing from pride.


Pride, when classified as an emotion or passion, is both cognitive and evaluative; its object, that which it cognizes and evaluates, is the self and its properties, or something the proud individual identifies with.[10] The field of psychology classifies it with guilt and shame as a self-conscious emotion that results from the evaluations of oneself and one's behavior according to internal and external standards.[16] Pride results from satisfying or conforming to a standard; guilt or shame from defying it. There is a lack of research that addresses pride, perhaps because it is despised as well as valued in the individualist West, where it is experienced as pleasurable.[17]


In psychological terms, positive pride is "a pleasant, sometimes exhilarating, emotion that results from a positive self-evaluation".[18] It was added to the University of California, Davis, "Set of Emotion Expressions", as one of three "self-conscious" emotions known to have recognizable expressions (along with embarrassment and shame).[19]

The term "fiero" was coined by Italian psychologist Isabella Poggi to describe the pride experienced and expressed in the moments following a personal triumph over adversity.[20] Facial expressions and gestures that demonstrate pride can involve a lifting of the chin, smiles, or arms on hips to demonstrate victory. Individuals may implicitly grant status to others based solely on their expressions of pride, even in cases in which they wish to avoid doing so. Indeed, some studies show that the nonverbal expression of pride conveys a message that is automatically perceived by others about a person's high social status in a group.[7]

Behaviorally, pride can also be expressed by adopting an expanded posture in which the head is tilted back and the arms extended out from the body. This postural display is innate as it is shown in congenitally blind individuals who have lacked the opportunity to see it in others.[21]

Positive outcomes[edit]

Pride results from self-directed satisfaction with meeting personal goals; for example positive performance outcomes elicit pride in a person when the event is appraised as having been caused by that person alone.[22][full citation needed]

Pride as a display of the strong self that promotes feelings of similarity to strong others, as well as differentiation from weak others. Seen in this light, pride can be conceptualized as a hierarchy-enhancing emotion, as its experience and display helps rid negotiations of conflict.[23]

Pride involves exhilarated pleasure and a feeling of accomplishment. It is related to "more positive behaviors and outcomes in the area where the individual is proud".[24][full citation needed] Pride is associated with positive social behaviors such as helping others and outward promotion[clarification needed]. Along with hope, it is an emotion that facilitates performance attainment, as it can help trigger and sustain focused and appetitive effort to prepare for upcoming evaluative events. It may also help enhance the quality and flexibility of the effort expended.[25][full citation needed] Pride can enhance creativity, productivity, and altruism.[26][full citation needed] Researchers have found that among African-American youth, pride is associated with a higher GPA in less socioeconomically advantaged neighborhoods, whereas in more advantaged neighborhoods, pride is associated with a lower GPA.[27]


In the field of economic psychology, pride is conceptualized on a spectrum ranging from "proper pride", associated with genuine achievements, and "false pride", which can be maladaptive or even pathological. Lea et al. examined the role of pride in various economic situations and claim that in all cases pride is involved because economic decisions are not taken in isolation from one another, but are linked together by the selfhood of the people who take them[clarification needed].[28] Understood in this way, pride is an emotional state that works to ensure that people take financial decisions that are in their long-term interests, even when in the short term they would appear irrational.

Sin and self-acceptance[edit]

Pride, from the Seven Deadly Sins by Jacob Matham c. 1592

Inordinate self-esteem is called "pride".[29] Classical Christian theology views pride as being the result of high self-esteem, and thus[non sequitur] high self-esteem was viewed as the primary human problem, but beginning in the 20th century, "humanistic psychology" diagnosed the primary human problem as low self-esteem stemming from a lack of belief in one's "true worth". Carl Rogers observed that most people "regard themselves as worthless and unlovable." Thus, they lack self-esteem.[30]: 40, 87, 95 

In the King James Bible, people exhibiting excess pride are labeled with the term, "Haughty".

Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.

Terry Cooper describes excessive pride (along with low self-esteem) as an important framework in which to describe the human condition. He examines and compares the Augustinian-Niebuhrian conviction that pride is primary, the feminist concept of pride as being absent in the experience of women, the humanistic psychology position that pride does not adequately account for anyone's experience, and the humanistic psychology idea that if pride emerges, it is always a false front designed to protect an undervalued self.[30]

He considers that the work of certain neo-Freudian psychoanalysts, namely Karen Horney, and offers promise in dealing with[clarification needed] what he calls a "deadlock between the overvalued and undervalued self".[30]: 112–13  Cooper refers to their work in describing the connection between religious and psychological pride as well as sin to describe how a neurotic pride system underlies an appearance of self-contempt and low self-esteem:

The "idealized self," the "tyranny of the should," the "pride system", and the nature of self-hate all point toward the intertwined relationship between neurotic pride and self-contempt. Understanding how a neurotic pride system underlies an appearance of self-contempt and low self-esteem.[sentence fragment][30]: 112–13 

Thus, hubris, which is an exaggerated form of self-esteem, is sometimes actually a lie used to cover the lack of self-esteem the hubristic person feels deep down.

Hubris and group narcissism[edit]

Hubris is associated with more intra-individual negative outcomes and is commonly related to[clarification needed] expressions of aggression and hostility.[31][full citation needed] Hubris is not necessarily associated with high self-esteem but with highly fluctuating or variable self-esteem. Excessive feelings of hubris have a tendency to create conflict and sometimes to terminate close relationships, which has led it to be understood as one of the few emotions with no clear positive or adaptive functions.[32][full citation needed]

A group that boasts, gloats, or denigrates others tends to become a group with low social status or to be vulnerable to threats from other groups.[33][better source needed] "[H]ubristic, pompous displays of group pride might be a sign of group insecurity as opposed to a sign of strength,"[This quote needs a citation] while those who express pride by being filled with humility whilst focusing on members' efforts and hard work tend to achieve high social standing in both the adult public and personal eyes.

Research from the University of Sydney found that hubristic pride correlates with arrogance and self-aggrandizement and promotes prejudice and discrimination. But authentic pride is associated with self-confidence and accomplishment and promotes more positive attitudes toward outgroups and stigmatized individuals.[34]


Across the world[edit]

Pride in ones own ethnicity or ones own culture seems to universally have positive connotations,[dubiousdiscuss][35] though like earlier discussions on pride, when pride tips into hubris, people have been known to commit atrocities.[36]

Types of pride across the world seem to have a broad variety. The difference of type may have no greater contrast than that between the U.S. and China.[ambiguous][37] In the U.S., individual pride tends[clarification needed] and seems to be held more often in thought. The people in China seem to hold greater views[clarification needed] for the nation as a whole.[38]

The value of pride in the individual or the society as a whole seems to be a running theme and debate among cultures.[39] This debate shadows the discussion on pride so much so that perhaps the discussion on pride shouldn't be about whether pride is necessarily good or bad, but about which form of it is the most useful.[39]

Pride has gained a lot of negative recognition in the western cultures largely due to its status as one of the Seven Deadly Sins. It was popularized by the Pope Gregory I of the Catholic Church in the late sixth century, but before that it was recognized by a Christian Monk named Evagrius Ponticus in the fourth century as one of the evils human beings should resist. [40]


The Father and Mother by Boardman Robinson depicting War as the offspring of Greed and Pride

In Germany, "national pride" ("Nationalstolz") is often associated with Nazism. Strong displays of national pride are therefore considered to be in poor taste by many Germans. There is an ongoing public debate about the issue of German patriotism. The World Cup in 2006, held in Germany, saw a wave of patriotism sweep the country in a manner not seen for many years. Although many were hesitant to show such blatant support as the hanging of the national flag from windows, as the team progressed through the tournament, so too did the level of support across the nation.[41]


The term "Asian pride" in modern usage refers mostly to those of East Asian descent, though it can include anyone of Asian descent. Asian pride was originally fragmented, as Asian nations have long had conflicts with each other; examples are the old Japanese and Chinese religious beliefs about their superiority. Asian pride emerged prominently during European colonialism.[42] At one time, Europeans controlled 85% of the world's land through colonialism, resulting in anti-Western feelings among Asian nations.[42] Today, some Asians still look upon European involvement in their affairs with suspicion.[42] In contrast, Asian empires are proudly remembered by adherents of Asian Pride.


Black pride is a slogan used primarily in the United States to raise awareness for a black racial identity. The slogan has been used by African Americans of sub-Saharan African origin or ancestry to denote a feeling of self-confidence, self-respect, celebrating one's heritage, and being proud of one's worth.


White pride is a slogan mainly (but not exclusively) used by white separatist, white nationalist, neo-Nazi, and white supremacist organizations in the United States for a white race identity.[43][full citation needed] White pride also consists of white ethnic/cultural pride.


Bed Push at Mad Pride parade in Cologne, Germany, in 2016

Mad pride is a worldwide movement and philosophy that mentally ill people should be proud of their madness. It advocates mutual support and rallies for their rights,[44] and aims to popularize the word "mad" as a self-descriptor.[45]


Pride parade, Düsseldorf 2017

LGBT pride is a worldwide movement and philosophy asserting that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) individuals should be proud of their sexual orientation and gender identity. LGBT pride includes advocacy for equal rights and benefits for LGBT people.[46] The movement has three main premises: that people should be proud of their sexual orientation and gender identity, that sexual diversity is a gift, and that sexual orientation and gender identity are inherent and cannot be intentionally altered.[47][better source needed]

The word "pride" is used in this case as an antonym for "shame". It is an affirmation of self and community. The modern gay pride movement began after the Stonewall riots of the late 1960s. In June 1970, the first pride parade in the United States commemorated the one-year anniversary of the Stonewall riots—the nearly week-long uprising between New York City youth and police officers following a raid of Stonewall Inn.[48]


Detail of "Pride" in The Seven Deadly Sins and the Four Last Things by Hieronymus Bosch

In conventional parlance, vanity sometimes is used in a positive sense to refer to a rational concern for one's appearance, attractiveness, and dress, and is thus not the same as pride. However, it also refers to an excessive or irrational belief in or concern with one's abilities or attractiveness in the eyes of others and may in that sense be compared to pride. The term vanity originates from the Latin word vanitas meaning emptiness, untruthfulness, futility, foolishness, and empty pride.[49] Here empty pride means a fake pride, in the sense of vainglory, unjustified by one's own achievements and actions, but sought by pretense and appeals to superficial characteristics.

"The Fallen Angel" (1847) by Alexandre Cabanel, depicting Lucifer
Jacques Callot, Pride (Vanity), probably after 1621

In many religions, vanity is considered a form of self-idolatry, in which one rejects God for the sake of one's own image, and thereby becomes divorced from the graces of God. The stories of Lucifer and Narcissus (who gave us the term narcissism), and others, attend to a pernicious aspect of vanity.

In Western art, vanity was often symbolized by a peacock, and in Biblical terms, by the Whore of Babylon. During the Renaissance, vanity was invariably represented as a naked woman, sometimes seated or reclining on a couch. She attends to her hair with a comb and mirror. The mirror is sometimes held by a demon or a putto. Other symbols of vanity include jewels, gold coins, a purse, and often by the figure of death himself.

"All Is Vanity" by C. Allan Gilbert, evoking the inevitable decay of life and beauty toward death

Often depicted is an inscription on a scroll that reads Omnia Vanitas ("All is Vanity"), a quote from the Latin translation of the Book of Ecclesiastes.[50] Although that phrase—itself depicted in a type of still life called vanitas—originally referred not to an obsession with one's appearance, but to the ultimate fruitlessness of man's efforts in this world, the phrase summarizes the complete preoccupation of the subject of the picture. "The artist invites us to pay lip-service to condemning her", writes Edwin Mullins, "while offering us full permission to drool over her. She admires herself in the glass, while we treat the picture that purports to incriminate her as another kind of glass—a window—through which we peer and secretly desire her."[51] The theme of the recumbent woman often merged artistically with the non-allegorical one of a reclining Venus.

In his table of the seven deadly sins, Hieronymus Bosch depicts a bourgeois woman admiring herself in a mirror held up by a devil. Behind her is an open jewelry box. A painting attributed to Nicolas Tournier, which hangs in the Ashmolean Museum, is An Allegory of Justice and Vanity. A young woman holds a balance, symbolizing justice; she does not look at the mirror or the skull on the table before her. Vermeer's famous painting Girl with a Pearl Earring is sometimes believed to depict the sin of vanity, as the young girl has adorned herself before a glass without further positive allegorical attributes.[52] All is Vanity, by Charles Allan Gilbert (1873–1929), carries on this theme. An optical illusion, the painting depicts what appears to be a large grinning skull. Upon closer examination, it reveals itself to be a young woman gazing at her reflection in the mirror of her vanity table. Such artistic works served to warn viewers of the ephemeral nature of youthful beauty, as well as the brevity of human life and the inevitability of death.

See also[edit]


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  2. ^ The New Oxford Dictionary of English. Clarendon Press. 1998.
  3. ^ Taylor, Richard (1995). Restoring Pride: The Lost Virtue of Our Age. Prometheus Books. ISBN 9781573920247.
  4. ^ Augustine of Hippo. De amore (in Latin). Vol. IV. Archived from the original on 5 November 2008. Retrieved 9 November 2008. Est autem superbia amor proprie excellentie, et fuit initium peccati superbia.
  5. ^ Baba, Meher (1967). Discourses. Vol. 2. San Francisco: Sufism Reoriented. p. 72. ISBN 978-1880619094..
  6. ^ Sullivan, G.B. (2007). "Wittgenstein and the grammar of pride: The relevance of philosophy to studies of self-evaluative emotions". New Ideas in Psychology. 25 (3): 233–252. doi:10.1016/j.newideapsych.2007.03.003.
  7. ^ a b Shariff, Azim F.; Tracy, Jessica L. (2009). "Knowing who's boss: Implicit perceptions of status from the nonverbal expression of pride". Emotion. 9 (5): 631–639. doi:10.1037/a0017089. PMID 19803585.
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  12. ^ "proud". Online Etymology Dictionary. Archived from the original on 6 June 2014. Retrieved 20 June 2014.
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  14. ^ a b Aristotle. Nicomachean Ethics. IV.3.
  15. ^ Aristotle. Rhetoric. 1378b.
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Further reading[edit]