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[kon-too-muh-lee, -tyoo-; kuh n-too-muh-lee, -tyoo-; kon-tuh m-lee, -tyoom, -chuh m] /ˈkɒn tʊ mə li, -tyʊ-; kənˈtu mə li, -ˈtyu-; ˈkɒn təm li, -tyum, -tʃəm/
noun, plural contumelies.
insulting display of contempt in words or actions; contemptuous or humiliating treatment.
a humiliating insult.
Origin of contumely
1350-1400; Middle English contumelie (< Anglo-French) < Latin contumēlia, perhaps akin to contumāx (see contumacy), though formation and sense development are unclear
Related forms
[kon-too-mee-lee-uh s, -tyoo-] /ˌkɒn tuˈmi li əs, -tyu-/ (Show IPA),
contumeliously, adverb
contumeliousness, noun
1. abuse, scorn, disdain, rudeness. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for contumely
Historical Examples
  • The Christian Englishman drags her shame before an open court, and divorces her with contumely.

  • Ah Chun called for the manager and was treated with contumely.

    The House of Pride Jack London
  • It is no pleasure for me to recount these passages in my life, in which I have had to hear the "proud man's contumely."

    The Confessions of Harry Lorrequer, Complete Charles James Lever (1806-1872)
  • “My misery would not be complete without your contumely,” sobbed Rudolf.

    Major Frank A. L. G. Bosboom-Toussaint
  • It has been objected that Dante would not treat with contumely a man so devout as Celestine.

  • For some time, he did not make a single convert, and gained nothing but contumely and abuse.

    Self-Help Samuel Smiles
  • And yet one could not treat with contumely a person who acted in one's interests.

    The Secret Witness George Gibbs
  • No more should the gallant beast he had bred be seized with contumely in the market-place.

    The Wild Geese Stanley John Weyman
  • Our mothers are a favorite target for the shafts of contumely that through them reach us.

    Explanation of Catholic Morals John H. Stapleton
  • We shall not be cast aside in contumely and unblest after all we have suffered.

British Dictionary definitions for contumely


noun (pl) -lies
scornful or insulting language or behaviour
a humiliating or scornful insult
Derived Forms
contumelious (ˌkɒntjʊˈmiːlɪəs) adjective
contumeliously, adverb
contumeliousness, noun
Word Origin
C14: from Latin contumēlia invective, from tumēre to swell, as with wrath
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 contumely

late 14c., from Old French contumelie, from Latin contumelia "a reproach, insult," probably related to contumax "haughty, stubborn," from com-, intensive prefix (see com-), + tumere "to swell up" (see thigh).

The unhappy man left his country forever. The howl of contumely followed him across the sea, up the Rhine, over the Alps; it gradually waxed fainter; it died away; those who had raised it began to ask each other, what, after all, was the matter about which they had been so clamorous, and wished to invite back the criminal whom they had just chased from them. [Thomas Babington Macaulay, "Lord Byron," 1877]

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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