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From Latin contemptus (scorn), from contemnō (I scorn, despise), from com- + temnō (I despise). Displaced native Old English forsewennes.


  • IPA(key): /kənˈtɛmpt/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ɛmpt


contempt (countable and uncountable, plural contempts)

  1. (uncountable) The state or act of contemning; the feeling or attitude of regarding someone or something as inferior, base, or worthless; scorn, disdain.
    • 1918, W[illiam] B[abington] Maxwell, chapter XIII, in The Mirror and the Lamp, Indianapolis, Ind.: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, →OCLC:
      And Vickers launched forth into a tirade very different from his platform utterances. He spoke with extreme contempt of the dense stupidity exhibited on all occasions by the working classes. He said that if you wanted to do anything for them, you must rule them, not pamper them.
    • 2023 March 8, Howard Johnston, “Was Marples the real railway wrecker?”, in RAIL, number 978, page 53:
      Transport Minister Marples, meanwhile, used arrogant rhetoric and showed his personal contempt for railways when confirming in Parliament that a third of the network was to be closed even before the survey results were known.
  2. The state of being despised or dishonored; disgrace.
  3. (law) Open disrespect or willful disobedience of the authority of a court of law or legislative body.
    • 2021 October 19, Luke Broadwater, “House Panel Recommends Contempt Charge Against Bannon”, in The New York Times[1], →ISSN:
      The panel voted unanimously on Tuesday to recommend charging Mr. [Stephen K.] Bannon with criminal contempt of Congress for defying its subpoena, sending the issue to the House.



Derived terms[edit]

Terms derived from contempt (noun)

Related terms[edit]


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Further reading[edit]