Definition of contumacious
- She was warned that her contumacious conduct would not be tolerated.
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the judge threatened to charge the contumacious witness with contempt of court
Legal contexts are one area where you might encounter this fancy word for "rebellious" or "insubordinate" - and the link between contumacious and the law goes back to Latin. The Latin adjective contumax means "rebellious," or, in specific cases, "showing contempt of court." Contumacious is related to contumely, meaning "harsh language or treatment arising from haughtiness and contempt." Both contumacious and contumely are thought to ultimately come from the Latin verb tumēre, meaning "to swell" or "to be proud."
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