Definition of contemptuous
: manifesting, feeling, or expressing deep hatred or disapproval : feeling or showing contempt
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
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
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
<loutish tourists who are contemptuous of the ways and traditions of their host countries>
<contemptuous comments about the baseball team's pathetic showings>
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
First Known Use: 1574
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
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