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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 self-contempt
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • His thinking was stopped by a sudden flood of self-contempt.

    There and Back George MacDonald
  • He had been innocent, and her suspicion of him recoiled back in self-contempt.

    Shining Ferry Sir Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch
  • To him the winter passed in a maze of doubt and self-contempt.

  • That scene in the garden that now seems to fill him with self-contempt.

    April's Lady Margaret Wolfe Hungerford
  • Her emphasis on the words "in love" was sick with self-contempt.

    Shadows of Flames Amelie Rives
  • In earning the contempt of others he had not saved himself from self-contempt.

    The Manxman Hall Caine
  • She had kept herself under control to-day by dint of isolation, and the inadequacy of that course filled her with self-contempt.

  • He had got to the very depths of weakness when it came to that with him—and of self-contempt.

    Allison Bain Margaret Murray Robertson
  • And so he went away crestfallen, in an agony of self-contempt, persuaded that he was verily and indeed no better than a slave.

    The Memorabilia Xenophon
British Dictionary definitions for self-contempt


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 self-contempt



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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Idioms and Phrases with self-contempt
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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