Build your vocabulary with Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day! Each day a Merriam-Webster editor offers insight into a fascinating new word -- explaining its meaning, current use, and little-known details about its origin.
August 13th, 2015
Episode 286 of 758 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 13, 2015 is: contumely \kahn-TOO-muh-lee\ noun : harsh language or treatment arising from haughtiness and contempt; also : an instance of such language or treatment Examples: Deeply hurt by the contumely directed at her, Charlotte burst into tears and ran out of the room. "She occupied the outer margins of established theater and wore that status as a badge of honor, refusing to join Actors' Equity until the late 1980s and often seeming to revel in the contumely of the mainstream press." Ben Brantley, New York Times, October 13, 2013 Did you know? English poet Geoffrey Chaucer wrote about the sin of contumelie, as it was spelled in Middle English, while composing "The Parson's Tale" back in the late 1300s. The word is a borrowing from Middle French (whence it had earlier arrived from Latin contumelia), and it has since seen wide literary use. Perhaps its most famous occurrence is in Hamlet's "To be or not to be" soliloquy (in which it is pronounced \KAHN-tyoom-lee\ or \KAHN-chum-lee\): "For who would bear the whips and scorns of time, / Th' oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely...."