Friday, February 8, 2013


contumely [ˈkɒntʊməli] n.

1.) Insolent reproach or abuse; insulting or offensively contemptuous language or treatment; despite; scornful rudeness; now, especially such contemptuous treatment as tends to inflict dishonour and humiliation.
2.) An instance of contumely; an insult, an insolent reproach, a piece of scornful or contemptuous insolence.
3.) Contemptuous insult as it affects the sufferer: disgrace, reproach, humiliation (Oxford English Dictionary 2nd Edition).

Etymology: from Middle English contumelie, from Old French, from Latin contumelia; akin to contumax, insolent, in which the stem part tum- is of disputed etymology.

"For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
Th' oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,
The pangs of despis'd love, the law's delay,
The insolence of office, and the spurns
That patient merit of th' unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin?"
(Hamlet, William Shakespeare, 1604)

(Tarquinio e Lucrezia, Tiziano Vecellio, ~1515)


Debra She Who Seeks said...

I think I've only ever seen this word in adjective form: contumacious. Was never sure what it meant though, so thanks for the info.

Poke The Rock said...

This is great, thanks, like Debra said I only ever seen contumacious before but never contumely - I shall dazzle my colleagues with this one today!

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