The Meaning of Despicable: What It Is and How To Use It

Do you know the definition of despicable? This article will provide you with all of the information you need on the word despicable, including its definition, etymology, usage, example sentences, and more!

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What does the word despicable mean?

According to Merriam-Webster Unabridged English Dictionary and Dictionary, the word despicable is an adjective that refers to someone who deserves to be despised. This person is contemptible and evil. The word despicable is a very strong word, and is used to describe someone who is inherently an awful person. A boss who screams at everyone all day long and has low base actions could be considered despicable. A serial killer who committed ugly crimes would be considered despicable. Someone could have low despicable conversations; a year of loss could be considered a despicable year. The bureau might consider a spy in the capitol despicable. Since this word carries such strong negative connotations, make sure that you are using it correctly. This word is also often used for emphasis, or sarcastically. Try using this word of the day or other new words in a sentence today!

There are many different languages that contain words meaning despicable. You may notice that some of these words look or sound similar to the word despicable. These are called cognates. Cognates are words that look and sound similar between languages and retain the same meaning. These are often formed when two words have the same root or language of origin. This list of translations for the word despicable is provided by Word Sense

  • Italian: spregevole‎, abietto‎ (masc.), disprezzabile‎
  • Catalan: menyspreable‎
  • German: verachtenswert‎, gemein‎, niederträchtig‎, verabscheuungswürdig‎, widerwärtig‎, abscheulich‎, schnöde‎
  • Finnish: halveksittava‎, kurja‎
  • Polish: nikczemny‎
  • Latin: contemptus‎
  • Romanian: disprețuibil‎ (masc.), abject‎ (masc.)
  • Bokmål: avskyelig‎
  • Mandarin: 卑鄙‎ (bēibǐ), 卑劣‎ (bēiliè)
  • Russian: презре́нный‎, жа́лкий‎ (pathetic)
  • Indonesian: tercela‎, hina‎, keji‎
  • Persian: نفرت انگیز‎ (nefrat-angiz)
  • Spanish: desdeñable‎, despreciable‎, bajo‎
  • French: abject‎, méprisable‎, détestable‎
  • Portuguese: desprezível‎
  • Japanese: 卑しい‎ (iyashii), 汚い‎ (kitanai), 卑劣‎
  • Swedish: avskyvärd‎
  • Basque: txarro‎
  • Hungarian: megvetendő‎
  • Latvian: zemisks‎
  • Dutch: verachtelijk‎, verfoeilijk‎, afschuwelijk‎
  • Greek: αχρείος‎ (masc.), ποταπός‎ (masc.), αχαρακτήριστος‎ (masc.)
  • Bulgarian: презрян‎ (prezrján), жалък‎ (žálǎk) (pathetic)

What is the origin of the word despicable?

According to Etymonline, the word despicable has been used since the 1550s to mean something that deserves to be despised. This comes from the Late Latin ​​​dēspicābilis, which has its roots in the Latin dēspicārī, meaning to despise or disdain. This word is related to the Latin dēspiciō and despicere meaning to look down upon. This word is build from the prefix de meaning down and the roots spicere and specere meaning “to look at.” This word has Indo-European roots. Related words include the nouns despicability and despicableness and the adverb despicably. 

How can the word despicable be used in a sentence?

The word despicable can be used in many different contexts and settings to describe a person or thing that is worthy of being despised. This is a very strong word, so think carefully before using it. In this first example, Kevin and Annie have just left a meeting at work.

Kevin: I can’t believe they’re just cutting our overtime, effective immediately. I can’t pay my rent without overtime.

Annie: Same! Plus, our guaranteed overtime is in our contracts.

Kevin: I couldn’t believe they were telling us all we were lucky to still have jobs, and yet they didn’t cut the salaried employees’ pay at all. It just goes to show that they don’t care about us at all. It’s despicable.

Annie: Agreed. We’re the backbone of this company and we’re treated like dirt. 

Here, Kevin uses the word despicable to describe how the higher-ups at the company are treating the lower-level employees. In this next example, Annie is dog-sitting for her mom. 

Kevin: Aw, cute dog!

Annie: Don’t let him fool you, he’s absolutely despicable. He ate three pairs of my shoes in one day, plus he won’t stop chasing my cat.

Kevin: Wow. That’s a lot of evil for such a tiny dog.

Here, Annie describes the small, feisty dog as despicable because it is not obedient and causes chaos. 

What are synonyms and antonyms for the word despicable?

There are many different words and phrases that one can use in place of the word despicable. These are called synonyms, which are words and phrases that have the same meaning as another given word or phrase. Synonyms are a great tool to use to avoid repeating oneself, as well as to quickly expand one’s vocabulary. This list of synonyms for the word despicable is provided by Thesaurus

  • degenerate
  • shabby
  • cheap
  • degrading
  • wretched
  • scummy
  • low-life
  • mean
  • pitiful
  • bad
  • beggarly
  • sordid
  • swinish
  • disreputable
  • awful
  • worthless
  • crass
  • vile
  • dirty
  • hateful
  • scurvy
  • base
  • odious
  • ignominious
  • slimy
  • disgusting
  • no-good
  • abject
  • inferior
  • outcast
  • lowest
  • reprehensible
  • disgraceful
  • loathsome
  • heel
  • down
  • low
  • sorry
  • infamous
  • ignoble
  • paltry
  • poor
  • sad
  • contemptible
  • detestable
  • despisable
  • disgust
  • contempt
  • scorn
  • abominable
  • abhorrent
  • beastly
  • low-down
  • pity
  • unworthy
  • shameful
  • insignificant
  • pitiable
  • currish

There are also numerous different words that mean the opposite of the word despicable. These are called antonyms. Antonyms are another great tool to learn to expand your English language vocabulary. This list of opposite words for the word despicable is also provided by Thesaurus

  • satisfactory
  • virtuous
  • befitting
  • agreeable
  • bewitching
  • creditable
  • sweet-natured
  • relishable
  • winsome
  • alluring
  • genial
  • attractive
  • decent
  • appropriate
  • ordinary
  • reputable
  • worthy
  • charming
  • nice
  • modest
  • appealing
  • adorable
  • passable
  • angelic
  • amiable
  • fetching
  • respected
  • good-natured
  • lovely
  • fascinating
  • redoubted
  • desirable
  • mediocre
  • lovesome
  • august
  • correct
  • sympathetic
  • engaging
  • well-thought-of
  • presentable
  • estimable
  • comely
  • ravishing
  • honorable
  • cuddly
  • winning
  • sweet
  • venerable
  • done
  • likeable
  • enjoyable
  • tolerable
  • good
  • enthralling
  • upright
  • admirable
  • conforming
  • proper
  • friendly
  • sublime
  • captivating
  • becoming
  • reputed
  • entrancing
  • endearing
  • fair
  • moderate
  • charismatic
  • pleasing
  • redoubtable
  • seemly
  • preferable
  • enchanting
  • respectable
  • seductive
  • decorous
  • dignified
  • suitable
  • delightful

Overall, the word despicable means a person or thing that deserves to be dispersed. This person or thing is contemptible and evil, and has no redeeming qualities. This could describe pedophiles, a slimy little liar, or anyone who is evil in the eyes of their critics. Those who are involved in civic engagement might consider the alt right movement despicable. This is a very strong word, so think carefully before using it to describe a person or thing, and make sure it is at the right moment. This word comes from the Late Latin despicabilis.