I have already researched this word in an online dictionary and in my native language (Dutch), though I'm not sure if I fully understand it yet.

Take following examples:

A time of contempt is approaching.
Am I to gain X, while paying with contempt for myself?

Would a suitable synonym be despise? Could someone explain it please?

  • 2
    Some context for these sentences might help. The second one seems more the direct meaning of "contempt" but I'm not sure how to explain the first one without a bit of context.
    – Catija
    Jun 24, 2016 at 16:26

2 Answers 2


From what I understand the first quote is from The Witcher.

‘Geralt,’ said the lawyer, closing his eyes. ‘What drives you? If you want to save Ciri . . . I wouldn’t have thought you could afford the luxury of contempt. No, that was badly expressed. You can’t afford the luxury of spurning contempt. A time of contempt is approaching, Witcher, my friend, a time of great and utter contempt. You have to adapt. What I’m proposing is a simple solution. Someone will die, so someone else can live. Someone you love will survive. A girl you don’t know, and whom you’ve never seen, will die—’ "

Apparently in the original Polish they used pogarda, meaning a "mix of feelings of lack of respect, aversion and superiority over someone". (Reddit link.)

In English, then, they mean contempt as in "disdain and hatred for something". In this case, I understand that Geralt is going to be hated (by society? by himself?), and the lawyer thinks Geralt has to use that hatred against him as emotional fuel to find Ciri.

The second one is more straightforward. Contempt here more means "hate". It sounds like it means the speaker will get something, but only by doing something that will make them hate themselves.

Probably someone who's read The Witcher could make this clearer.

  • Nice sleuthing. :) Also, I think that, to match the usage, "contempt" in the second sentence would be replaced by "hatred" not "hate" :)
    – Catija
    Jun 24, 2016 at 17:03
  • In colloquial English usage you can also use "hate" to mean "hatred", but I think that's a good clarification! It's most definitely a noun here.
    – eijen
    Jun 24, 2016 at 17:09
  • Well, I have read the books (in German, though) and would support your assessments both from a general English language perspective as well as a reader's perspective. Though, I would agree the word is used a little ambiguously maybe, but that might be due to not 100% accurate translation as well. If it helps anything, the German version uses "Verachtung", which is pretty much "contempt", "disdain", "disrespect" or what I would call a heavier form of disrespect. Jun 24, 2016 at 17:29
  • Correct, they're indeed of the Witcher novels. Time of Contempt novel to be precise. We're talking about page 34. If you'd like I can post the precise quote for the second sentence as well.
    – GillesDV
    Jun 25, 2016 at 12:54

Good synonyms for contempt are: loathing, disrespect.

A frequent legal term is to be "held in contempt [of court]". This basically means that they have not shown respect for the court's authority.

I guess hatred might be an ok synonym, but I think it's a little too strong a word for contempt. it's close, but it's not quite the same.

Contempt = no respect or value

One may show "contempt" for something like science - by thinking that it something which has no value, in their opinion.

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