mid-15c., contempnen, "to slight or spurn," from Old French contemner (15c.) or directly from Latin contemnere "to despise, scorn, consider (something or someone) as of small value," from assimilated form of com-, here probably an intensive prefix (see com-), + *temnere "to slight, scorn," which is of uncertain origin. Of laws, agreements, etc., "consider and treat as contemptible," 1570s. Related: Contemned; contemning.
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