There are many words in the English language which are spelled similarly but have very different meanings. Very similar to the words beside or besides. Oftentimes, words have very similar use cases & can be confusing for new writers to understand. The words contemptible and contemptuous are a perfect example of this! In this post, we’ll teach you the difference between these two words so that you can use them correctly in your writing.
Which Spelling Is Correct: Contemptible vs Contemptuous?
The words contemptuous and contemptible are adjective forms of the word contempt. This is a noun defined as a feeling of strong dislike or disrespect. Just like vagrant or hobo, these two words are often confused.
But what’s the difference between these words?
- The “-ible” ending literally means “able to“. Therefore, contemptible means that someone or something is able to/worthy of contempt.
- The “-uous” ending literally means “full of something“. Therefore, contemptuous means that someone or something is full of contempt or disrespect.
Takeaway: The word “contemptible” means deserving of contempt or scorn. The word “contemptuous” means showing or expressing contempt or scorn.
When To Use Contemptible
To put things simply, “contemptible” means deserving of contempt or scorn, or worthy of being despised or disdained. It is an adjective, just like pricy vs pricey. The word itself is used to describe a person, behavior, or action that is seen as worthy of contempt or scorn.
- His behavior was contemptible and I do not condone stealing from the poor.
- She found his excuses contemptible and decided to uphold his suspension.
- The way he treated his employees was contemptible, it is no wonder they don’t like him.
- Mark was a contemptible person, I cannot respect someone who hurts others.
- The way he lied and cheated was contemptible, that’s why his wife divorced him.
When To Use Contemptuous
Again, the word “contemptuous” means showing or expressing contempt or scorn. The -uous ending is added to make this word an adjective like the words more rare vs rarer. It can be used to describe an attitude or demeanor that is characterized by contempt or scorn. It is very similar to contemptible, but they are used in different contexts.
If you’re looking for less descriptive adjectives look into what are indefinite adjectives. These have a time and place to be used in your writing.
- The way Steve spoke to her was contemptuous and outright disrespectful.
- She gave him a contemptuous look as she walked away from the dinner table.
- Mark made a disrespectful comment about Jen. I certainly did not appreciate his contemptuous reference.
- As a liberal, Mark had a contemptuous attitude toward Republicans at the party.
- The contemptuous disregard and mean tone in her voice made it clear that she was NOT happy to be there.
So, which word is used more frequently?
After checking Google’s ngram data, it is clear that contemptuous is more popular. But not by much! Both words are used less frequently in published works than in years past.
However, just like we saw when analyzing the words casual or causal, the popularity of a word can change over time. As decades go by and culture changes…so does vocabulary!
Just make sure you know there is a difference between grammar vs vocabulary. These two terms are very important but are commonly confused by writers!
Frequently Asked Questions
When a person is contemptuous, they are insulting someone or dismissing them in a hateful way. This might show itself in different ways such as: a contemptuous attitude, a contemptuous smile, a contemptuous look, or even a contemptuous tone!
An example of contemptible could be someone who abuses animals in an unethical way. They treat the animals in a contemptuous manner and with disrespect. Most people would agree that abusing animals is deplorable and hateful.
The word “contemptible” is an adjective that means bad, despicable, or vile. Typically, this adjective is used to describe the actions of someone. For example, “After Mark got caught stealing from a charity I told him his actions were contemptible and I did not support them.”
Contemptuous can be used to describe someone who looks down on others or feels superior to them. For example, “She had a contemptuous look on her face as she talked about the other teachers.” It can also be used to describe someone’s hatred or disrespect for another person or thing. “Sarah was openly contemptuous to the underclassmen because she thought they did not earn any respect.”
The Bottom Line
We are all familiar with the word contempt. But now you know that you can easily change this noun into adjective form by adding an -ible or – uous suffix. Just remember, if someone gives you a contemptuous glance that is NOT a good thing! And if you need a tool to check grammar, consider using GrammarCheckME! Our tool can check your writing and give instant feedback.