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[kuh n-tempt] /kənˈtɛmpt/
the feeling with which a person regards anything considered mean, vile, or worthless; disdain; scorn.
the state of being despised; dishonor; disgrace.
  1. willful disobedience to or open disrespect for the rules or orders of a court (contempt of court) or legislative body.
  2. an act showing such disrespect.
Origin of contempt
1350-1400; Middle English (< Anglo-French) < Latin contemptus a slighting = contemn(ere) to despise, scorn (see contemn) + -tus suffix of v. action (with loss of n and intrusive p)
Related forms
self-contempt, noun
contempt , disdain , scorn imply strong feelings of disapproval and aversion toward what seems base, mean, or worthless. contempt is disapproval tinged with disgust: to feel contempt for a weakling . disdain is a feeling that a person or thing is beneath one's dignity and unworthy of one's notice, respect, or concern: a disdain for crooked dealing . scorn denotes open or undisguised contempt often combined with derision: He showed only scorn for those who were not as ambitious as himself. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for contempt of court
  • We have contempt of court, whether or not it is contemptible is not in question.
  • Prisoners may vote if they are doing time for non-payment of fines or, strangely, contempt of court.
  • These can compel witness, hold people in contempt of court, and generally throw their weight around.
  • Her behaviour during the proceedings of this case would have landed her in jail for contempt of court in any western judiciary.
  • She was detained on charges of contempt of court and did that perfectly well.
  • If he refuses, he can be found in contempt of court but not jailed.
  • If one is found or held in contempt of court, he/she may be fined, placed in jail or both.
  • Failure to do so will result in an order to show cause why he should not be held in contempt of court.
British Dictionary definitions for contempt of court


the attitude or feeling of a person towards a person or thing that he considers worthless or despicable; scorn
the state of being scorned; disgrace (esp in the phrase hold in contempt)
wilful disregard of or disrespect for the authority of a court of law or legislative body: contempt of court
Word Origin
C14: from Latin contemptus a despising, from contemnere to contemn
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
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Word Origin and History for contempt of court



late 14c., from Latin contemptus "scorn," from past participle of contemnere "to scorn, despise," from com-, intensive prefix (see com-), + *temnere "to slight, scorn," of uncertain origin. Phrase contempt of court is attested from 19c., though the idea is several centuries older.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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contempt of court in Culture

contempt of court definition

The deliberate obstruction of a court's proceedings by refusing to obey a court order or by interfering with court procedures. Contempt of court can be punished by fine, imprisonment, or both.

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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Idioms and Phrases with contempt of court
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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