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From Middle English contempnen, from Old French contemner, from Latin contemnere (to scorn). See also contempt.


  • IPA(key): /kənˈtɛm/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ɛm


contemn (third-person singular simple present contemns, present participle contemning, simple past and past participle contemned)

  1. (transitive, archaic) To disdain; to value at little or nothing; to treat or regard with contempt.
    • c. 1620s, Elizabeth Cary [misattributed to Henry Cary], “The Preface”, in The History Of the most unfortunate Prince King Edward II. [] , London: A.G. and F. P., published 1680, page A3, verso:
      The subject of the following History [...] is the unhappy Lives, and untimely Deaths, of that Unfortunate English King Edward the Second, and his two Favourites Gaveston and Spencer; for his immoderate love to whom, (Says Dr. Heylin) he was hated by the Nobles, and contemned by the Commons.
    • 1834, L[etitia] E[lizabeth] L[andon], chapter XXI, in Francesca Carrara. [], volume III, London: Richard Bentley, [], (successor to Henry Colburn), →OCLC, page 171:
      The change which had so suddenly elevated Charles Stuart to the throne of his ancestors, and, from a poor, wandering, and powerless exile, made him one of Europe's most powerful monarchs, had taken the various courts where he had sojourned, neglected, if not contemned, completely by surprise.
    • 1919, W. Somerset Maugham, “11”, in The Moon and Sixpence:
      I was perturbed by the suspicion that the anguish of love contemned was alloyed in her broken heart with the pangs, sordid to my young mind, of wounded vanity.
  2. (law) To commit an offence of contempt, such as contempt of court; to unlawfully flout (e.g. a ruling).



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