Contempt Meaning: Here’s What It Means and How to Use It

Do you know the meaning of contempt? Read on for the ultimate guide to this commonly used word to discover its definition, origin, and more.

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Did you know that the word contempt simply refers to a strong feeling of disliking someone or something? Yup, it’s true — read on to discover more about this common English term to learn its origin, synonyms, antonyms, and more. 

What Does Contempt Mean?

To begin our journey towards understanding what the noun contempt means, let’s review a few definitions provided to us by Collins English Dictionary and Cambridge Dictionary via the great worldwide web:

  • The feeling or attitude towards a thing or person that one considers worthless, vile, and/or inferior.
  • The state of being disgraced or scorned (E.G., contempt of court, hold in contempt.)
  • Willful disobedience or open disrespect towards the authority of a legislative body or court of law.

After reviewing each definition listed above, we can conclude if you have contempt for anything, you find that person or thing generally useless or simply inferior. 

The pronunciation of the noun contempt is kənˈtempt.

What Is the Origin of Contempt?

With quite a few of the words and phrases we use today derive from Greek and Latin words, contempt stays true to trend. To really understand the root of the word, we need to dive into its etymology; this lets us further understand its origin and history. 

The first usage of the Middle English word contempt was borrowed from Anglo-French and Latin in the late 14th century, with a meaning of open disobedience or disregard (of the law, authority, etc.) or the general sense of scorn for things that are worthless or vile.

Deriving from the Old French contempt and directly from Latin contemptus — meaning scorn — contempt comes from the past participle of contemners, the assimilated form of “com-” and “temnere” (meaning to slight or despise), which has an uncertain origin.

Around 1718, the phrase “contempt of court” was first noted in the history books, written as a disrespect for the orders, processes, and rules of judicial authority. In other words, it refers to a strong feeling of a lack of respect. 

What Are the Synonyms and Antonyms of Contempt?

Synonyms and antonyms help us obtain a better grasp on the definitions of words. Plus, they help us out in a pinch when we catch ourselves being repetitive in a paper we are writing or in a long message to a peer. 

An antonym has the opposite meaning to the original word, whereas a synonym has the same definition. How many of these synonyms and antonyms below did you know?

Synonyms of Contempt

Below you will find a list of synonyms for contempt, provided by Power Thesaurus:

  • Hatred
  • Loathing
  • Disgust
  • Distaste
  • Disapproval
  • Antipathy
  • Disgrace
  • Hostility
  • Inattention
  • Disinterestedness
  • Dishonor
  • Complacence
  • Lack of Notice
  • Aversion
  • Abomination
  • Detestation
  • Contemptuousness
  • Revulsion
  • Animosity
  • Despising
  • Indignity
  • Contemn
  • Opprobrium
  • Contumely
  • Imprisonment
  • Insult
  • Snub
  • Affront
  • Condescension
  • Obloquy
  • Sarcasm
  • Mockery
  • Disrepute
  • Stigma
  • Humiliation

Antonyms of Contempt

Antonyms can help us to get a better grasp on the in-depth meaning of a word as they firmly teach us what a word is not. Below you will find a list of antonyms for the noun contempt, provided by Power Thesaurus:

  • Admiration
  • Appreciation
  • Opinion
  • Awe
  • Extolment
  • Liking
  • Friendliness
  • Estimation
  • Laudation
  • Popularity
  • Application
  • Approval
  • Favor
  • Honor
  • Adulation
  • Veneration
  • Respect
  • Regard
  • Sympathy
  • Flattery
  • Esteem
  • Deference
  • Grace
  • Recognition
  • Unpretentiousness
  • Subordinateness
  • Cooperation
  • Subservience
  • Humility
  • Shyness

The Word “Contempt” in Example Sentences

While you may have heard the word contempt thrown around in the latest law movie, now you have a better grasp on the definition of this noun. Let us show you how to properly use contempt in a sentence yourself. 

To further comprehend the meaning behind contempt, try making a few of your own sentences at home! 

Below you will find contempt used in various different sentences:

  • When I did not return home with treats, I was greeted by my pup with a look of utter scorn and contempt instead of the usual tail-wagging kisses. 
  • While they may not trust the opposition, we have reached a point where the masses feel contempt for the government.
  • I simply could not watch my brother’s children a minute longer; they have a downright contempt for authority and, simply put, have no respect. 
  • There is always a punishment for criminal contempt!
  • He pleaded and pleaded but, in the end, was charged with drunken disorderly conduct and contempt of court and has since been locked up in jail.
  • Being the ace poker player she was, Abbie hid her contempt behind her poker face as she received her cards from the dealer.
  • An easy way to get fined and at times receive jail time is to ignore your court summons and, in turn, be held in contempt.
  • That name itself connotes contempt for everything we all held sacred.
  • If you don’t go to the hearing this Friday, it shows that you have no respect for the authority of a court of law, and you will be in contempt of court.
  • I fully intend on treating your remarks with the contempt they deserve.
  • The defendant’s insolent language was considered mean, so he was held in contempt and brought back to his jail cell. 
  • We support the contempt of wicked men and evil women— don’t you?
  • Anyone who treats you with such contempt this October is going to get a knuckle sandwich!
  • Did you know that showing such disrespect in the courtroom can put you in contempt of court?
  • He showed contempt for his country by having poor behavior when the national anthem played. 


The noun contempt can be a rather harsh term and thus should be used in moderation. To say you have contempt for something is stronger than using words like scorn and disdain. If you really find a person or thing utterly useless or vile, contempt is a fitting word to use. 

Originating from Middle English, fatigue is from contemptus past participle of contemnere, meaning “to despise” or “condemn” according to the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition. It can be defined as strong feelings of disapproval. 

We hope this guide has provided you with all of the information you need to understand the term contempt. Check out our website to discover more interesting words, grammar tips, tools, and more.  


  1. CONTEMPT | definition in the | Cambridge English Dictionary
  2. Contempt definition and meaning | Collins English Dictionary
  3. Contempt synonyms – 1 112 Words and Phrases for Contempt | Power Thesaurus