con·​tempt·​ible | \kən-ˈtem(p)-tə-bəl \

Definition of contemptible 

1 : worthy of contempt a contemptible snob contemptible bigots

2 obsolete : scornful, contemptuous

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Other Words from contemptible

contemptibility \ kən-​ˌtem(p)-​tə-​ˈbi-​lə-​tē \ noun
contemptibleness noun
contemptibly \ kən-​ˈtem(p)-​tə-​blē \ 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

Making a movie that's based on some of the most intimate, vulnerable and contemptible moments of your life is an ambitious undertaking — even more so if its cast includes your own dog. Ashley Lee,, "‘Boundaries’ director Shana Feste has a message for male critics about her dogs, dad and pot movie," 25 June 2018 Vanderbilt, however, also had a contemptible history with race. USA TODAY, "Nashville and the Destiny of Dissent," 15 Apr. 2018 And of course, the contemptible Scott Pruitt—the man tasked with destroying the Environmental Protection Agency from the inside—has enacted a policy of secrecy at that agency that wouldn't be out of place at the CIA. Jack Holmes, Esquire, "The Trump Administration Censors Climate Change Research as Hurricane Harvey Barrels Down on Texas," 25 Aug. 2017 But in an administration where diffidence can be as contemptible as disloyalty, Tillerson’s retiring leadership style threatens to become a self-fulfilling prophecy., "Does Rex Tillerson Even Care That Nikki Haley Is Stealing His Thunder?," 22 Sep. 2017 Still, as contemptible as Grassley’s official rationale for supporting Graham-Cassidy is, his party’s actual motivation for pushing the bill is (almost certainly) more sinister. Eric Levitz, Daily Intelligencer, "No One Wants the Latest Trumpcare Bill — Except Right-Wing Billionaires," 22 Sep. 2017 Critics of Trump’s decision have tended to ignore UNESCO’s contemptible politics and emphasize its other initiatives, which include literacy programs and environmental conservation. The Editors, National Review, "Good Riddance to UNESCO," 14 Oct. 2017 Yes all his pious liberal Hollywood enablers who said nothing for decades are contemptible. Frank Rich, Daily Intelligencer, "Frank Rich: Bob Corker and the Disgrace of Republican Silence," 11 Oct. 2017 As usual, Trump’s Twitter storm was beyond contemptible for all the obvious reasons. William D. Cohan,, "Puerto Rico’s Human Catastrophe Is Hedge Funds’ Inhuman Nightmare," 2 Oct. 2017

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.

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First Known Use of contemptible

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for contemptible

see contempt

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

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More Definitions for contemptible



English Language Learners Definition of contemptible

: not worthy of respect or approval : deserving contempt


con·​tempt·​ible | \kən-ˈtemp-tə-bəl \

Kids Definition of contemptible

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

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More from Merriam-Webster on contemptible

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for contemptible

Spanish Central: Translation of contemptible

Nglish: Translation of contemptible for Spanish Speakers

Comments on contemptible

What made you want to look up contemptible? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to clear from alleged fault or guilt

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