Definitions

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

  • n. Rudeness or contempt arising from arrogance; insolence.
  • n. An insolent or arrogant remark or act.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. Offensive and abusive language or behaviour; scorn, insult.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. Rudeness compounded of haughtiness and contempt; scornful insolence; despiteful treatment; disdain; contemptuousness in act or speech; disgrace.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. Insolently offensive or abusive speech; haughtiness and contempt expressed in words; overbearing or reviling language; contemptuousness; insolence.
  • n. A contumelious statement or act; an exhibition of haughty contempt or insolence.
  • n. Synonyms Abuse, rudeness, scorn.

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

  • n. a rude expression intended to offend or hurt

Etymologies

Middle English contumelie, from Old French, from Latin contumēlia; akin to contumāx, insolent.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Old French contumelie, from Latin contumēlia ("insult"), perhaps from com- + tumeō ("swell"). (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • He wept for that which had befallen him, but kept his affair secret, so none of his foes might exult over him nor any of his friends be troubled, knowing that, if he disclosed his secret, it would bring him naught but dishonour and contumely from the folk; wherefore he said in him self,

    The Book of The Thousand Nights And A Night

  • The etymology of the word contumely is doubtful but I am of the opinion that the derivation suggested here is not unsound.

    Satyricon

  • That phrase was flung at them, I think, in contumely at one time, but, like many such phrases, it has been adopted.

    International Relations

  • In recent days there has been a great deal of ill-informed comment about our Deputy Prime Minister’s penchant for the game of croquet; he has suffered obloquy and had contumely poured over him – and dried contumely is a devil to brush off one’s jacket.

    The Bonkers Code

  • The Vicomte called the contumely heaped on his father's name and his own, "a disagreeable scene."

    The Son of Monte-Cristo

  • In this part of the country are to be found that race of persons known to the original natives as _Gavaches_: the word is one of contempt, taken from the Spanish; and the habit of treating these people with contumely, which is not even yet entirely worn out, comes from an early time: that is to say, so long ago as 1526; at which period a great part of the population on the banks of the Drot, and round La Réole and

    Béarn and the Pyrenees A Legendary Tour to the Country of Henri Quatre

  • Bonus points for dragging much-neglected "contumely" out of retirement, but otherwise it's babbling-as-usual over at the Pod Works.

    Ellis Weiner: Here's Your Hat, What's Your Hurry?

  • Maybe "contumely" would be a better place to start.

    On modernizing or not modernizing Shakespeare

  • The Eighth Commandment protects every man's honor; it condemns contumely which is an attack upon that honor.

    Explanation of Catholic Morals A Concise, Reasoned, and Popular Exposition of Catholic Morals

  • Could he see with patience a Prince of Orange expelled as a sort of diminutive despot, with every kind of contumely, from the country, which that family of deliverers had so often rescued from slavery, and obliged to live in exile in another country, which owes its liberty to his house?

    Paras. 60-83

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Comments

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  • "'Yeah, well, you thought wrong, didn't you, old son? You're nothing but a f*cking dreg, and I...' Isaac broke off from his contumely and stared in astonishment." From Perdido Street Station by China Mieville.

    December 5, 2011

  • I had never heard this word before I heard it in a dream. In the dream, it was announced as the name of an ancient local deity at the site of an archeological excavation.

    May 26, 2011

  • My very first Wordie/Wordnik word!

    May 20, 2011

  • JM realises his contumely costume doesn’t fit anymore.

    April 14, 2011

  • -- It was the speech, mark you, the professor said, of a finished orator, full of courteous haughtiness and pouring in chastened diction, I will not say the vials of his wrath but pouring the proud man's contumely upon the new movement.
    Joyce, Ulysses, 7

    January 2, 2007

  • As a general rule, if the word appears in Hamlet, it deserves a comeback.

    December 4, 2006