contemptuous

adjective
con·​temp·​tu·​ous | \ kən-ˈtem(p)-chə-wəs How to pronounce contemptuous (audio) , -chəs, -shwəs, -chü-əs \

Definition of contemptuous

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

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Other Words from contemptuous

contemptuously adverb
contemptuousness noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for contemptuous

Synonyms

Antonyms

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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 contemptuous in a Sentence

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 McMurtry, Dead Man's Walk, 1995 In his 1978 Harvard commencement address, Mr. Solzhenitsyn seemed at times contemptuous of American democracy … — Daniel Patrick Moynihan, New York Times Book Review, 24 Nov. 1991 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 Ozick, New Yorker, 20 Nov. 1989 loutish tourists who are contemptuous of the ways and traditions of their host countries contemptuous comments about the baseball team's pathetic showings
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Recent Examples on the Web In a legal career that lasted more than four decades, Bailey was seen as arrogant, egocentric and contemptuous of authority. Mark Pratt, USA TODAY, 4 June 2021 McCarthy’s contemptuous liberalism is symptomatic of a cross-continental political derangement. Armond White, National Review, 28 July 2021 In a legal career that lasted more than four decades, Bailey was seen as arrogant, egocentric and contemptuous of authority. Mark Pratt, USA TODAY, 4 June 2021 One example is the Twitter account of a contemptuous troll dedicated to pointing out typos and grammar mistakes in the paper of record. Asaf Shalev, sun-sentinel.com, 8 June 2021 In a legal career that lasted more than four decades, Bailey was seen as arrogant, egocentric and contemptuous of authority. Mark Pratt, USA TODAY, 4 June 2021 In a legal career that lasted more than four decades, Bailey was seen as arrogant, egocentric and contemptuous of authority. Mark Pratt, Anchorage Daily News, 3 June 2021 In a legal career that lasted more than four decades, Bailey was seen as arrogant, egocentric and contemptuous of authority. CBS News, 3 June 2021 In a legal career that lasted more than four decades, Bailey was seen as arrogant, egocentric and contemptuous of authority. Mark Pratt, chicagotribune.com, 3 June 2021

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.

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First Known Use of contemptuous

1574, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for contemptuous

probably borrowed from Medieval Latin contemptuōsus, from Latin contemptu-, stem of contemptus contempt + -ōsus -ous

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Time Traveler for contemptuous

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The first known use of contemptuous was in 1574

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Dictionary Entries Near contemptuous

contemptible

contemptuous

contemptus mundi

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Last Updated

2 Sep 2021

Cite this Entry

“Contemptuous.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/contemptuous. Accessed 20 Sep. 2021.

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More Definitions for contemptuous

contemptuous

adjective

English Language Learners Definition of contemptuous

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

contemptuous

adjective
con·​temp·​tu·​ous | \ kən-ˈtemp-chə-wəs How to pronounce contemptuous (audio) \

Kids Definition of contemptuous

: scornful a contemptuous smile

More from Merriam-Webster on contemptuous

Nglish: Translation of contemptuous for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of contemptuous for Arabic Speakers

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