• synonyms


[kon-too-muh-lee, -tyoo-; kuhn-too-muh-lee, -tyoo-; kon-tuhm-lee, -tyoom, -chuhm]
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noun, plural con·tu·me·lies.
  1. insulting display of contempt in words or actions; contemptuous or humiliating treatment.
  2. a humiliating insult.
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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


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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words

remark, humiliation, disdain, arrogance, abuse, rudeness, scorn, reproach, insolence, contempt

Examples from the Web for contumely

Historical Examples

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


    Samuel Smiles

  • Poverty, contumely, indignities of all sorts, met him wherever he turned.

  • No more should the gallant beast he had bred be seized with contumely in the market-place.

    The Wild Geese

    Stanley John Weyman

  • We shall not be cast aside in contumely and unblest after all we have suffered.

  • Where is an equal army of men to be found to invite the contumely of their own sex?

    Despair's Last Journey

    David Christie Murray

British Dictionary definitions for contumely


noun plural -lies
  1. scornful or insulting language or behaviour
  2. a humiliating or scornful insult
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Derived Formscontumelious (ˌkɒntjʊˈmiːlɪəs), adjectivecontumeliously, adverbcontumeliousness, 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

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]
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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper