Definition of contumely in English:



  • [mass noun] Insolent or insulting language or treatment.

    ‘the Church should not be exposed to gossip and contumely’
    • ‘One finds in Wolcot's mock-epic a shower of contumely constantly trained upon epic.’
    • ‘You're never going to please everybody, but my feeling is there seems to have been less contumely than might have been expected, because we have taken people with us.’
    • ‘Nursing her injuries by keeping ‘herself in a state of intoxication,’ Lucy heaped contumely on Peter, their children, and neighbors.’
    • ‘They helped us understand what we were up against: the proud man's contumely, the insolence of office.’
    • ‘And why - if they have actually talked to the police and prosecuting authorities - do they dismiss their ‘scepticism’ with such contumely?’
    abuse, insults, slurs, aspersions, derision, invective, slander, defamation, denigration, disparagement, opprobrium, obloquy, vituperation, vilification
    insolence, rudeness, impertinence, discourtesy
    mud-slinging, bad-mouthing, bitchiness
    malapertness, billingsgate
    View synonyms


Late Middle English: from Old French contumelie, from Latin contumelia, perhaps from con- with + tumere to swell.