[kon-too-muh-lee, -tyoo-; kuhn-too-muh-lee, -tyoo-; kon-tuhm-lee, -tyoom, -chuhm]

noun, plural con·tu·me·lies.

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 formscon·tu·me·li·ous [kon-too-mee-lee-uhs, -tyoo-] /ˌkɒn tuˈmi li əs, -tyu-/, adjectivecon·tu·me·li·ous·ly, adverbcon·tu·me·li·ous·ness, noun

Synonyms for contumely Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for contumelious

Historical Examples of contumelious

  • If I had been bred in the east, I should be tempted to say it was a contumelious responsibility.

    A Pessimist

    Robert Timsol

  • I weep and cry out, I have been a most contumelious offender.

  • She turned the combs and brushes over with a contumelious hand.

    Joan of the Sword Hand

    S(amuel) R(utherford) Crockett

  • Who now hath plumbed the depths of a contumelious paronomasia?

    Wilderness of Spring

    Edgar Pangborn

  • Although I curled a contumelious lip, I smarted under the indignity.

    Simon the Jester

    William J. Locke

British Dictionary definitions for contumelious


noun plural -lies

scornful or insulting language or behaviour
a humiliating or scornful insult
Derived Formscontumelious (ˌkɒntjʊˈmiːlɪəs), adjectivecontumeliously, adverbcontumeliousness, noun

Word Origin for contumely

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

Word Origin and History for contumelious

late 15c., from Old French contumelieus, from Latin contumeliosus "reproachful, insolently abusive," from contumelia (see 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