con·​tempt·​ible | \ kən-ˈtem(p)-tə-bəl How to pronounce contemptible (audio) \

Definition of contemptible

1 : worthy of contempt a contemptible snob contemptible bigots
2 obsolete : scornful, contemptuous

Other Words from contemptible

contemptibility \ kən-​ˌtem(p)-​tə-​ˈbi-​lə-​tē How to pronounce contemptible (audio) \ noun
contemptibleness noun
contemptibly \ kən-​ˈtem(p)-​tə-​blē How to pronounce contemptible (audio) \ adverb

Choose the Right Synonym for contemptible

contemptible, despicable, pitiable, sorry, scurvy mean arousing or deserving scorn. contemptible may imply any quality provoking scorn or a low standing in any scale of values. a contemptible liar despicable may imply utter worthlessness and usually suggests arousing an attitude of moral indignation. a despicable crime pitiable applies to what inspires mixed contempt and pity. a pitiable attempt at tragedy sorry may stress pitiable inadequacy or may suggest wretchedness or sordidness. this rattletrap is a sorry excuse for a car scurvy adds to despicable an implication of arousing disgust. a scurvy crew of hangers-on

What Is the Difference Between contemptuous and contemptible?

Contemptuous and contemptible are sometimes confused with each other. This is neither surprising, as they are similar in appearance, nor is it unprecedented: the words were used interchangeably for several hundred years (from the 16th through the 18th century), with each one meaning both "deserving contempt" and "showing contempt." By the early 19th century, some commentators began raising objections when the words were used synonymously, suggesting that they should be distinguished, with contemptuous meaning only "showing contempt" and contemptible only "deserving contempt."

In the following passage, for example, a would-be critic is ridiculed for using contemptible in the sense "showing contempt":

“Young man! my opinion of you is very contemptible.” “All your opinions are contemptible,” rejoined Phillip, quietly.  – Garry Avenel, Zou Mou, in The Iris, September, 1841

The distinction hinted at in this rebuke has been observed in English, by professional writers anyway, for close to 200 years.

Examples of contemptible in a Sentence

I've never met a more selfish, contemptible person. the contemptible thieves who stole the Christmas gifts intended for needy children
Recent Examples on the Web Indeed, Don't Look Up takes a scattershot approach to lamenting humanity — from celebrities and media figures to politicians and ordinary joes — as by and large contemptible, moronic, and the hastener of its own destruction. Andy Meek, BGR, 7 Jan. 2022 Shocked at the president’s contemptible and brazenly autocratic conduct, fellow Republicans set aside partisanship, fiercely condemned Trump and joined Democrats in voting to impeach the president. Los Angeles Times, 22 Dec. 2021 This discontent increased in the wake of a 1936 ruling known as Tipaldo, after its contemptible protagonist, a slave-driving New York factory owner, overturning a New York minimum wage law. Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times, 17 Dec. 2021 Affleck, who plays the contemptible Count Pierre d’Alençon, an ally of Driver’s depraved character, said there was little to recommend life in the Middle Ages, especially for women, and that posed a problem for the writers., 17 Oct. 2021 The same hallowed grounds where over 1 million people were murdered is still the site of despicable and contemptible crimes. Alan Goch,, 14 Oct. 2021 In the next beat, Larson lays down her trump card, the most contemptible symbol an author can conjure: white-lady tears. Katy Waldman, The New Yorker, 10 Oct. 2021 In the entire pantheon of Disney villains, there is no one quite as fearsome—or as fashionable—as the callous, cold, and downright contemptible Cruella de Vil. Jill Gleeson, Country Living, 8 July 2021 One person talks about an alphabet book filled with contemptible Jewish caricatures. David Fear, Rolling Stone, 20 May 2021 See More

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

First Known Use of contemptible

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for contemptible

Middle English, "unworthy, despicable," borrowed from Middle French & Latin; Middle French, "despicable, worthless," borrowed from Latin contemptibilis (Medieval Latin also, "contemptuous"), from contemptus, past participle of contemnere "to look down on, show no respect for, despise" + -ibilis -ible — more at contemn

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The first known use of contemptible was in the 14th century

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Cite this Entry

“Contemptible.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for contemptible


con·​tempt·​ible | \ kən-ˈtemp-tə-bəl How to pronounce contemptible (audio) \

Kids Definition of contemptible

: deserving or causing a person to be despised a contemptible criminal a contemptible lie

More from Merriam-Webster on contemptible

Nglish: Translation of contemptible for Spanish Speakers


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