noun con·tume·ly \kän-ˈtü-mə-lē, kən-, -ˈtyü-; ˈkän-tü-ˌmē-lē, -tyü-ˌ, -chə-ˌ; in “Hamlet” ˈkän-(ˌ)tyüm-lē or ˈkän-chəm-\

Definition of contumely



  1. :  harsh language or treatment arising from haughtiness and contempt; also :  an instance of such language or treatment

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Did You Know?

Geoffrey Chaucer was writing about the sin of contumelie, as it was spelled in Middle English, back in the late 1300s. We borrowed the word from Middle French (whence it had earlier arrived from Latin contumelia), and it has since seen wide literary use. Perhaps its most famous occurrence is in Hamlet's To be or not to be soliloquy:

"For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
Th' oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely...." That's not to say the word has no place today. This past September, for example, political columnist Mona Charen expressed the opinion that President Bush has not only been criticized by those on the left of the political spectrum, but has also suffered the contumely of some on the right and of seemingly everyone in the center."

Origin and Etymology of contumely

Middle English contumelie, from Medieval French, from Latin contumelia

First Known Use: 14th century

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to criticize severely

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