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

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

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What does the word despise mean?

According to Merriam-Webster Unabridged English Dictionary and Dictionary, the word despise (pronounced dɪˈspaɪz) is a transitive verb that means to look down upon, to disrespect, or to regard as worthless. This word is often also used to mean to hate something. This is an extremely versatile word that can be used in a variety of different contexts.

Many different languages also contain words that mean the same thing as the word despise. You may notice that some of these words look and sound similarly to the word despise. This is likely because these cognates are of a similar origin. Oftentimes, when words are of a similar origin, they look and sound alike. This list of translations for the word despise is provided by Word Sense.

  • French: mépriser‎, dédaigner‎
  • Japanese: 蔑む‎ (sagesumu), 見下す‎ (mikudasu), 軽蔑‎, 軽侮‎
  • Russian: презира́ть‎ (impf), презре́ть‎ (pf)
  • Italian: disprezzare‎
  • Volapük: nestümön‎
  • Swahili: dharau‎
  • Czech: pohrdat‎ (impf), opovrhovat‎ (impf)
  • Spanish: desdeñar‎
  • Dutch: verachten‎
  • Latin: despicio‎
  • Esperanto: abomeni‎
  • Ukrainian: зневажати‎
  • German: verachten‎
  • Chinese – Mandarin: 鄙夷‎ (bǐyí), 鄙薄‎ (bǐbó), 藐視‎, 藐视‎ (miǎoshì), 輕視‎, 轻视‎ (qīngshì)
  • Yiddish: פֿײַנט האָבן‎, פֿאַראַכטן‎
  • Catalan: menysprear‎
  • Hindi: उपेक्षा करना‎ (upekṣā karnā)
  • Belarusian: пагарджаць‎
  • Finnish: halveksia‎, halveksua‎
  • Dalmatian: despreziur‎
  • Afrikaans: verag‎
  • Turkish: hor görmek‎, aşağılamak‎, küçümsemek‎
  • Maori: whakahāwea‎, whakatakao‎, whakaparahako‎, whakakurīmōri‎
  • Luxembourgish: veruechten‎, mepriséieren‎
  • Korean: 경멸하다‎ (gyeongmyeol-hada), 멸시하다‎ (myeolsi-hada)
  • Arabic: اِحْتَقَرَ‎
  • Polish: gardzić‎ (impf), pogardzać‎ (impf)
  • Bulgarian: презирам‎
  • Hungarian: lenéz‎
  • Portuguese: desprezar‎
  • Swedish: förakta‎ 

What is the origin of the word despise?

According to Etymonline, the word despise has been used since circa 1300 to mean to look down upon or to treat something with contempt. This word comes from the French despisen, which comes front the Old French despis. Despis is the present participle stem of despire meaning to despise. Despire comes from the Latin despicere meaning to look down upon or to scorn. This Latn word comes from the prefix de meaning down and the root spicere or specere meaning to look at. These roots come from the Proto-Indo-European root spek meaning to observe. Related words to despise include despised, despicable and despising. 

What are synonyms and antonyms for the word despise?

There are numerous different words that a person can use in place of the word despise. These are known as synonyms, which are words and phrases that have the same or a similar meaning to another word or phrase. Synonyms are very useful to know if you wish to avoid repeating yourself, as well as if you are looking to expand your knowledge of the English language. This list of synonyms for the word despise is provided by Thesaurus

  • feel malice to
  • misprize
  • spurn
  • shudder at
  • disapprove
  • be repelled by
  • nauseate
  • bear a grudge against
  • be reluctant
  • have no use for
  • renounce
  • can’t stand
  • look down nose at
  • have an aversion to
  • down on
  • abominate
  • look down on
  • abhor
  • shun
  • undervalue
  • neglect
  • loathe
  • scorn
  • not care for
  • execrate
  • have enough of
  • be sick of
  • deprecate
  • disdain
  • allergic to
  • snub
  • be loath
  • eschew
  • hate
  • flout
  • repudiate
  • revile
  • feel contempt for
  • detest
  • disfavor
  • deride
  • contemn
  • curse
  • reject
  • anathematize
  • wipe out
  • be sorry
  • slight
  • be hostile to
  • recoil from
  • spit upon
  • disregard
  • put down
  • disparage
  • object to
  • be disgusted with

There are also numerous different words that mean the opposite of the word despise. These are known as antonyms, which are very useful to know if you are trying to expand your vocabulary or knowledge of the English language. This list of antonyms for the word despise is provided by Thesaurus as well.

  • have it bad
  • exalt
  • think the world of
  • prefer
  • admire
  • venerate
  • wild for
  • deify
  • put on pedestal
  • be fond of
  • cherish
  • choose
  • long for
  • go for
  • be in love with
  • idolize
  • be fascinated with
  • lose one’s heart to
  • dote on
  • thrive with
  • prize
  • hold dear
  • be attached to
  • be crazy about
  • fancy
  • have affection for
  • care for
  • glorify
  • fall for
  • treasure
  • worship
  • esteem
  • adulate
  • adore
  • gone on
  • be enchanted by
  • be enamored of
  • love
  • delight in
  • canonize
  • be captivated by
  • hold high

How can the word despise be used in a sentence?

The word despise can be used in many different contexts and settings to describe things that people dislike or hate, or that they treat with little respect. In this first example, Nat and Randi are discussing one of their classes.

Nat: Ugh, I can’t believe we have Mr. Trum’s class tomorrow. I hate that class.

Randi: I’m with you there. I despise that man and his class. He doesn’t teach anything! The entire class all we do is read from the textbook, and then if we have a question, he just tells us to look in the textbook!

Nat: I know! It’s like if you’re not going to teach us anything, why are they paying you? 

Here, Nat and Randi use the word despise to refer to their teacher and the class that they dislike. They both dislike and treat the teacher with little respect because they do not believe that he is doing a good job of teaching, and is simple watching them read a textbook. This is one of many different ways in which despise can be used.

Overall, the word despise is a transitive verb that means to disdain, to hate, or to regard with little respect. This is a very versatile word that can be used in a variety of different contexts. This word is of Latin origin and is considered a very strong word.