from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. Obstinate or contemptuous resistance to authority; stubborn rebelliousness.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. disobedience, resistance to authority

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. Stubborn perverseness; pertinacious resistance to authority.
  • n. A willful contempt of, and disobedience to, any lawful summons, or to the rules and orders of court, as a refusal to appear in court when legally summoned.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. Wilful and persistent resistance to legitimate authority of any kind; unyielding disobedience; stubborn perverseness in an illegal or wrong course of action.
  • n. Specifically In law, wilful disobedience to a lawful order of a judicial or legislative body, or wilful contempt of its authority; a refusal to appear in court when legally summoned.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. obstinate rebelliousness and insubordination; resistance to authority
  • n. willful refusal to appear before a court or comply with a court order; can result in a finding of contempt of court


Middle English contumacie, from Latin contumācia, from contumāx, contumāc-, insolent.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)


  • “Yes, yes,” continued the Frenchwoman, with angry volubility, “what has she done that you call contumacy and disrespect?

    The Evil Guest

  • Presumptive contumacy occurs when there is a strong presumption, though it is not certain, that the citation was served.

    The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume 4: Clandestinity-Diocesan Chancery

  • As he resisted all Davies's attempts to enlighten him, and met his master's threats with a stedfastness which these friends to liberty called contumacy, the alternative was dismissal from his present service, without any remuneration for his past.

    The Loyalists, Vol. 1-3 An Historical Novel

  • For I felt certain that whatever it was that they professed, their contumacy and inflexible obstinancy obviously demanded punishment.

    The Roman Empire, the Early Christian Martyrs and a Thought about the Martyrology

  • Bread and the circus are freely given to the deserving, and as for the undeserving, they are merely reaping the rewards of their contumacy and pride.


  • Now there is a problem in that the Framers did not include a power to punish for contumacy.

    The Volokh Conspiracy » The proper understanding of “Necessary and Proper”:

  • Punishment for refusing to comply with a court order, such as an injunction against violation of a regulation or operating without a license, is a different power, the power to punish for contumacy, not a necessary and implied power of the Commerce Clause.

    The Volokh Conspiracy » The proper understanding of “Necessary and Proper”:

  • He is, therefore, summoned to their presence, and prompt obedience will insure him forgiveness; but in case of contumacy, let him beware how he again essays either the lyre or the pallet.

    Saint Ronan's Well

  • Captain MacTurk would willingly have taken measures against the Baronet himself, as in a state of contumacy, but was opposed by Winterblossom and other members of the committee, who considered Sir Bingo as too important and illustrious a member of their society to be rashly expelled from a place not honoured by the residence of many persons of rank; and finally insisted that nothing should be done in the matter without the advice of

    Saint Ronan's Well

  • But his entertainer took not the contumacy of the young apprentice with so much patience.

    The Fair Maid of Perth

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  • Madam, answered I, you have but to command me. Give me my commission on your muster-roll, and you shall have no reason to complain either of my cowardice or contumacy.

    - Lesage, The Adventures of Gil Blas of Santillane, tr. Smollett, bk 4 ch. 7

    September 18, 2008