Origin: L. Humanitas: cf. F. Humanite. See Human.

1. The quality of being human; the peculiar nature of man, by which he is distinguished from other beings.

2. Mankind collectively; the human race. "But hearing oftentimes The still, and music humanity." (Wordsworth) "It is a debt we owe to humanity." (S. S. Smith)

3. The quality of being humane; the kind feelings, dispositions, and sympathies of man; especially, a disposition to relieve persons or animals in distress, and to treat all creatures with kindness and tenderness. "The common offices of humanity and friendship."

4. Mental cultivation; liberal education; instruction in classical and polite literature. "Polished with humanity and the study of witty science." (Holland)

5. (With definite article) The branches of polite or elegant learning; as language, rhetoric, poetry, and the ancient classics; belles-letters.

The cultivation of the languages, literature, history, and archaeology of Greece and Rome, were very commonly called literae humaniores, or, in English, the humanities, . . . By way of opposition to the literae divinae, or divinity.

(01 Mar 1998)