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From Old French contumelie, from Latin contumēlia (insult), perhaps from com- + tumeō (swell).


  • IPA(key): /ˈkɒntjuːməli/


contumely (countable and uncountable, plural contumelies)

  1. Offensive and abusive language or behaviour; scorn, insult.
    • 1594, William Shakespeare, The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark:
      For who would beare the Whips and Scornes of time, The Oppressors wrong, the poore mans Contumely []
    • 1857, Anthony Trollope, Barchester Towers, Volume the Second, page 19 ISBN 1857150570
      She had been subjected to contumely and cross-questoning and ill-usage through the whole evening.
    • 1914, Grace Livingston Hill, The Best Man:
      What scorn, what contumely, would be his!
    • 1953, James Strachey, translating Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams, Avon Books, p. 178:
      If this picture of the two psychical agencies and their relation to the consciousness is accepted, there is a complete analogy in political life to the extraordinary affection which I felt in my dream for my friend R., who was treated with such contumely during the dream's interpretation.
    • 1976, Robert Nye, Falstaff:
      I could think of no words adequate to the occasion. So I belched. Not out of contumely, you understand. It was a sympathetic belch, a belch of brotherhood.

Related terms[edit]