• contumelious •
Pronunciation: kahn-tu-mee-li-ês • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: Scornfully insulting, savagely insolent, abusively humiliating, totally arrogant.
Notes: Today's word is the adjective accompanying the noun contumely. (Yes, noun!) Do not confuse this word with contumacious "willfully obstinate, stubbornly disobedient", though it shares a single source with today's word (see Word History).
In Play: When such terms as insolent and insulting just do not go far enough, it's time for today's Good Word: "Alison Wonderland's proposal for a helicopter ejection seat received such a contumelious response from the other members, that she never spoke up in a development meeting again." We do have places where contumelious fits nicely: "Marian Kine's sudden contumelious response to the advances of Phil Anders caught Phil completely off guard."
Word History: Today's Good Word was borrowed from Old French contumelie, inherited from Latin contumelia "a reproach, insult," probably related to contumax (contumac-s) "haughty, stubborn," from com- "with" + tumere "to swell up". Contumax also underlies English contumacious. Latin inherited this word from PIE teuh- "to swell". An odd assortment of English words comes directly and indirectly from this PIE word. First, English butter came from Greek bouturon "butter", a compound comprising bous "cow" + turos "cheese". Turos comes directly from teuh. Second, English thousand goes back to an Old Germanic compound thus-hundi "thousand" from thus- "swollen" + hundi "hundred". English thimble and thumb come from Old English thuma "thumb", that is "the swollen finger". OE thymel "thimble" is thuma with an old instrumental ending -l, as in treadle, spindle, girdle, and saddle, which caused the U to become Y. (Lest we make Debbie Moggio contumelious, let us all thank her now for today's strikingly Good Word.)