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

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Other Words from contemptible

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

Washington — Oberlin College has an admirable liberal past and a contemptible progressive present that will devalue its degrees far into the future. George Will, National Review, "Oberlin Has Graduated from Self-Caricature to Disgrace," 20 June 2019 Oberlin College has an admirable liberal past and a contemptible progressive present that will devalue its degrees far into the future. George Will, Twin Cities, "George Will: Oberlin has graduated from self-caricature to disgrace," 20 June 2019 The point isn’t to feel sorry for Mr. Trump, whose rhetorical attacks on the press have often been contemptible. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "The Constant Spin Zone," 26 Dec. 2018 The word louse refers to unpleasant or contemptible people. Rachel D'oro, The Seattle Times, "Alaska town seeks to remove ‘Lousetown’ nickname from code," 10 Sep. 2018 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

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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Statistics for contemptible

Last Updated

1 Jul 2019

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Time Traveler for contemptible

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

somewhat formal : not worthy of respect or approval : deserving contempt


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

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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 complain fretfully

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