contempt

noun
con·​tempt | \ kən-ˈtem(p)t How to pronounce contempt (audio) \

Definition of contempt

1a : the act of despising : the state of mind of one who despises : disdain glared at him in contempt
b : lack of respect or reverence for something acting with contempt for public safety
2 : the state of being despised
3 : willful disobedience to or open disrespect of a court, judge, or legislative body contempt of court

Keep scrolling for more

Examples of contempt in a Sentence

There, in the tall grass and the jungle, many would fall and the rest would return home to endure the sullen contempt of their fellow citizens, all to no purpose. — A. J. Bacevich, Commonweal, 12 Sept. 1997 I even read a mild contempt into this first-name business, comparable to the old habit of calling men Mac, Ace, Chief, or Buddy, or calling women Honey, Sweetie, or Doll. — Aristides, American Scholar, Summer 1996 The same contempt for the poor that suggests kids are better off in orphanages will mobilize resistance to the orphanages themselves. — Katha Pollitt, Nation, 12 Dec. 1994 … they looked with contempt at the bloodless gray arthritic hands of the old woman … — Alice Walker, In Love & Trouble, 1973 He feels that wealthy people view him with contempt because he is poor. He spoke with contempt in his voice. She has displayed a profound contempt for her opponents. She was arrested for contempt of court.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web

First came a pardon for Joe Arpaio, the former Arizona sheriff convicted of criminal contempt, whose case had been promoted by the right-wing radio host Alex Jones. Campbell Robertson, New York Times, "Pardon Seekers Have a New Strategy in the Trump Era: ‘It’s Who You Know’," 12 July 2018 Arpaio, 86, had been found guilty of criminal contempt of court for willfully defying a judge’s order to stop traffic patrols that targeted immigrants. Kaitlyn Schallhorn, Fox News, "Trump's presidential pardons include Jack Johnson, Joe Arpaio, others: A complete list," 10 July 2018 Arpaio was later convicted of criminal contempt but was eventually pardoned by President Donald Trump. Washington Post, "Arizona’s prisons boss found in contempt over inmate care," 22 June 2018 The response to Blasey Ford's testimony proved just how much contempt men in power have for women's voices. Abby Gardner, Glamour, "The Time 100 List Includes Both Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh—and People Have Thoughts," 17 Apr. 2019 Among progressives, contempt for Mr. Trump is an article of faith and hardly worth mentioning anymore at a dinner party. Lance Morrow, WSJ, "We’ve Grown Accustomed to Trump," 17 Oct. 2018 The case first came up last month, when the Department of Justice was reportedly looking to hold Facebook in contempt of court for refusing to comply with a wiretapping request for an ongoing investigation into the MS-13 gang. Chaim Gartenberg, The Verge, "Facebook reportedly avoids US government wiretap of Messenger voice calls," 28 Sep. 2018 And underneath the surface, the contempt for law enforcement is corrosive. Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, "Do We Need Assault Weapons in Case We Decide to Kill ‘Tyrannical’ Cops and Soldiers?," 22 Feb. 2018 The court may find me in contempt, and order me to jail. Bridget Read, Vogue, "Chelsea Manning Taken Into Custody for Refusing to Testify in Sealed Court Case," 8 Mar. 2019

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

See More

First Known Use of contempt

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for contempt

Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin contemptus, from contemnere — see contemn

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about contempt

Statistics for contempt

Last Updated

19 May 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for contempt

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for contempt

contempt

noun

English Language Learners Definition of contempt

: a feeling that someone or something is not worthy of any respect or approval
: a lack of respect for or fear of something that is usually respected or feared
law : speech or behavior that does not show proper respect to a court or judge

contempt

noun
con·​tempt | \ kən-ˈtempt How to pronounce contempt (audio) \

Kids Definition of contempt

1 : a feeling of disrespect or disapproval of something or someone It amused him that she pretended such contempt for him and yet condescended to show off …— Esther Forbes, Johnny Tremain
2 : the state of being despised He holds them in contempt.
3 : lack of proper respect for a judge or court He was fined for contempt of court.

contempt

noun
con·​tempt | \ kən-ˈtempt How to pronounce contempt (audio) \

Legal Definition of contempt

1 : willful disobedience or open disrespect of the orders, authority, or dignity of a court or judge acting in a judicial capacity by disruptive language or conduct or by failure to obey the court's orders also : the offense of contempt

called also contempt of court

civil contempt
: contempt that consists of disobedience to a court order in favor of the opposing party

Note: The sanctions for civil contempt end upon compliance with the order.

constructive contempt
: indirect contempt in this entry
criminal contempt
: contempt consisting of conduct that disrupts or opposes the proceedings or power of the court

Note: The sanctions for criminal contempt are designed to punish as well as to coerce compliance.

direct contempt
: contempt committed in the presence of the court or in a location close enough to disrupt the court's proceedings
indirect contempt
: contempt (as disobedience of a court order) that occurs outside of the presence of the court
2 : willful disobedience to a lawful order of or willful obstruction of a legislative body in the course of exercising its powers contempt of Congress
in contempt
: in the state of having been found guilty of contempt refused to testify and were held in contempt— A. M. Dershowitz

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on contempt

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

WORD OF THE DAY

a strong desire or propensity

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Challenging Vocabulary Quiz Returns!

  • stylized drawing of woman pole vaulting across gap to get trophy
  • Which is a synonym of fuliginous?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

TAKE THE QUIZ
Add Diction

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!