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[kuh n-tem] /kənˈtɛm/
verb (used with object)
to treat or regard with disdain, scorn, or contempt.
Origin of contemn
late Middle English
1375-1425; late Middle English contempnen (< Middle French) < Latin contemnere to despise, scorn, equivalent to con- con- + temnere to slight; see contempt
Related forms
[kuh n-tem-er, -tem-ner] /kənˈtɛm ər, -ˈtɛm nər/ (Show IPA),
[kuh n-tem-ner] /kənˈtɛm nər/ (Show IPA),
[kuh n-tem-nuh-buh l] /kənˈtɛm nə bəl/ (Show IPA),
contemnibly, adverb
contemningly, adverb
precontemn, verb (used with object)
uncontemned, adjective
uncontemning, adjective
uncontemningly, adverb
Can be confused
condemn, contemn.
scorn, disdain, despise. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for contemn
Historical Examples
  • Perhaps this may appear to you to be only an old wife's tale, which you will contemn.

    Gorgias Plato
  • So it is with women: you should not contemn women because they rouse a devil in man.

    The Soul of a People H. Fielding
  • I contemn the world when I think on it, and myself when I translate it.

  • A religion,” said I, “in which you yourself do not believe, and which you contemn.

    The Romany Rye George Borrow
  • There was, in truth, danger lest the Rhodians should contemn the Romans!

  • I determined to contemn and despise her; and steadily to refuse the interview.


    E. (Eliza) Fenwick
  • I have a husband who makes war upon me because I contemn his bed and board.

    Joan of the Sword Hand S(amuel) R(utherford) Crockett
  • Leave it to miserable fools, to contemn the wisdom of the Most High.

  • I do not ask that you should pity these women with whom I have to deal, still less that you should contemn them.

    She Stands Accused Victor MacClure
  • Reward my temperance with some lawful favour, Though you contemn my person.

British Dictionary definitions for contemn


(transitive) (formal) to treat or regard with contempt; scorn
Derived Forms
contemner (kənˈtɛmnə; -ˈtɛmə) noun
contemnible (kənˈtɛmnɪbəl) adjective
contemnibly, adverb
Word Origin
C15: from Latin contemnere, from temnere to slight
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for contemn

mid-15c., from Old French contemner (15c.), from Latin contemnere "to despise, scorn" (see contempt).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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