con·​temn | \ kən-ˈtem How to pronounce contemn (audio) \
contemned; contemning; contemns

Definition of contemn

transitive verb

: to view or treat with contempt : scorn

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Other Words from contemn

contemner or less commonly contemnor \ kən-​ˈtem-​nər How to pronounce contemn (audio) , -​ˈte-​mər \ noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for contemn



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despise, contemn, scorn, disdain mean to regard as unworthy of one's notice or consideration. despise may suggest an emotional response ranging from strong dislike to loathing. despises cowards contemn implies a vehement condemnation of a person or thing as low, vile, feeble, or ignominious. contemns the image of women promoted by advertisers scorn implies a ready or indignant contempt. scorns the very thought of retirement disdain implies an arrogant or supercilious aversion to what is regarded as unworthy. disdained popular music

Did You Know?

Contemn is derived from the Latin verb contemnere, a word formed by combining con- and temnere ("to despise"). Surprisingly, our verb may have come within a hair's breadth of being spelled "contempn." The Middle French word contempner arrived in Middle English as "contempnen," but that extra "p" disappeared, leaving us with "contemn." You may be wondering about the connection between "contemn" and "contempt," and not surprisingly, they are related. "Contempt" comes from Latin contemptus, which comes from "contemnere." "Contemn" first turned up in print in the 15th century; "contempt" dates from the 14th century.

Examples of contemn in a Sentence

arrogant critics who contemn the general public's taste in art
Recent Examples on the Web Consequently, the Sadrists were contemned and discounted by Iraq’s liberal elite who form the core of the ICP. Benedict Robin, Washington Post, "Why everyone failed to predict the leftist-Islamist alliance that won Iraq’s 2018 elections," 7 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'contemn.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of contemn

15th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for contemn

Middle English contempnen "to slight, spurn," borrowed from Anglo-French & Latin; Anglo-French contempner "to despise, disdain," borrowed from Latin contemnere "to look down on , show no respect for, despise," from con- con- + temnere "to scorn, despise," of uncertain origin

Note: The verb temnere is probably back-derived from contemnere, which is older and better attested. A comparison has been suggested with the Indo-European verb base *temh1- "cut," for which Greek also offers an n-present formation in támnein, témnein (see tome), though the semantic link is vague ("cut" > "cut off" > "shun" > "spurn, disdain"?). An older proposed link is with Greek stémbein "to shake about, handle roughly," supposedly comparable with Germanic *stampōn-/*stambōn- "to stamp, trample" (see stamp entry 1), but *stemb- is scarcely an unimpeachable Indo-European root.

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The first known use of contemn was in the 15th century

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Cite this Entry

“Contemn.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 May. 2021.

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