eating humble pie

Humble pie

To eat humble pie, in common usage, is to apologise and face humiliation for a serious error. Humble pie, or umble pie, is also a term for a variety of pastries, originally based on medieval meat tripe pies.


The expression derives from umble pie, which was a pie filled with liver, heart and other offal, especially of cow but often deer or boar. Umble evolved from numble, (after the French nomble) meaning 'deer's innards'. Umbles were considered inferior food, in medieval times the pie was often served to lower-class people.

Although "umbles" and the modern word "humble" are etymologically unrelated, each word has appeared both with and without the initial "h" after the Middle Ages until the 19th century. Since the sound "h" is often dropped in many dialects, and "umble" was a humble meal anyway, the phrase was rebracketed as "humble pie". While "umble" is now gone from the language, the phrase remains, carrying the fossilized word as an idiom.

Umble pie

Umble pie in its literal sense is a filled pastry similar to many respects to a Cornish pasty. The popularity of the dish umble pie among 15th and 16th century commoners in Britain gave rise to the expression "eating humble pie".

Although the original umble pies contained mostly tripe they later evolved to a form which might contain fruit and sweetening, often without meat. Recent "humble pie" recipes often have only sweet fillings. Modern humble meat pie recipe often included pricier cuts of meat such as chopped steak.

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