adjective con·temp·tu·ous \ kən-ˈtem(p)-chə-wəs , -chəs , -shwəs , -chü-əs \
|Updated on: 16 Jul 2018

Definition of contemptuous

: manifesting, feeling, or expressing deep hatred or disapproval : feeling or showing contempt





Examples of contemptuous in a Sentence

  1. He owned a fine Kentucky rifle, with a cherry wood stock, and was contemptuous of the bulky carbines most of the troop had adopted. —Larry McMurtryDead Man's Walk1995
  2. In his 1978 Harvard commencement address, Mr. Solzhenitsyn seemed at times contemptuous of American democracy … —Daniel Patrick MoynihanNew York Times Book Review24 Nov. 1991
  3. He felt familiar enough to indulge in outbursts of rage or contemptuous sarcasm in her presence, and to display the most withering side of his character, lashing out at the people he despised. —Cynthia OzickNew Yorker20 Nov. 1989
  4. loutish tourists who are contemptuous of the ways and traditions of their host countries

  5. contemptuous comments about the baseball team's pathetic showings

Recent Examples of contemptuous from the Web

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

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.

Origin and Etymology of contemptuous

Latin contemptus — see contempt

CONTEMPTUOUS Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of contemptuous for English Language Learners

  • : feeling or showing deep hatred or disapproval : feeling or showing contempt

CONTEMPTUOUS Defined for Kids


adjective con·temp·tu·ous \ kən-ˈtemp-chə-wəs \

Definition of contemptuous for Students

: scornful
  • a contemptuous smile

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very hard to disturb or upset

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