What Does Man’s Inhumanity to Man Mean?

Man’s Inhumanity to Man Meaning

Definition: Humanity’s ability to do horrible things to fellow humans.

Origin of Man’s Inhumanity to Man

This expression is a quote from a poem called From Man was Made to Mourn: A Dirge. Robert Burns wrote this poem in the year 1785. It presents the idea that humans were created in order to be sad. It speaks of oppression and cruelty that mankind causes and mankind suffers.

People usually quote this line of the poem with a sense of regret when something awful happens, such as many soldiers dying in a war.

Examples of Man’s Inhumanity to Man

define mans inhumanity to man The dialogue below shows two friends discussing a terrible story they heard on the news.

Giuseppe: The news is so depressing these days. I have no idea how someone could murder children like that.

May: I know. Unfortunately this kind of thing is becoming more and more common. I’ve heard statistics that the world is becoming a less violent place every year, but these stories are definitely increasing. I wish I could personally do something to stop them.

Giuseppe: I guess man’s inhumanity to man will always exist. However, I’m sure that there is some way we could help reduce violence in schools.

man inhumanity to man origin In the dialogue below, a father is talking to his daughter about not talking to strangers.

Rafal: Vesna, who was that man you were talking to over there on the playground? The one by the swings.

Vesna: I don’t know. He was just some guy I met.

Rafal: It’s dangerous for children to talk to strangers! You shouldn’t ever do that.

Vesna: Why not? You talk to strangers all the time.

Rafal: It’s different when you are older. But for now all you have to know is that sometimes people do bad things. It’s an example of man’s inhumanity to man.

More Examples

This excerpt discusses the relative importance of reminders of the bad things people do to one another.

  • Removing statues honoring traitors like Robert E. Lee or Stonewall Jackson is not the same as maintaining death camps, which exist to this day to remind us of man’s inhumanity to man. –Providence Journal

The second excerpt discusses times in history in which men did awful things to their fellow man.

  • Telling historical truths is something we started more than 22 years ago with the Underground Railroad tour known as Footsteps to Freedom. Many historic sites are included as part of the story. I always prefaced my remarks with, “These stories are not to be embellished or minimized but just told as a statement of fact.” Although we don’t visit Confederate monuments, we tell the documented stories of man’s inhumanity to man. –San Bernardino Sun


The expression man’s inhumanity to man describes how people do horrific things to one another and cause one another to suffer.