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Vilipend is a verb meaning to regard as worthless or of little value or to despise or vilify.

Etymologically speaking, to define vilipend using vilify is to commit a tautology, since both derive from Latin vilis, vile or worthless, which is also obviously enough the source of English vile. Vilipend also includes the verb pendere, to weigh or estimate. To vilipend is to weigh somebody in the balance and find them not worth considering.

It appeared in English in the fifteenth century and was a popular term right down into the nineteenth, though it has since dropped out of sight. In 1771 Tobias Smollett put it into the mouth of a character in Humphry Clinker: “I would not willingly vilipend any Christian, if, peradventure, he deserveth that epithet”. Sir Walter Scott employed it in Waverley in 1814: “He became a gay visitor, and such a reveller, that in process of time he was observed to vilipend the modest fare which had at first been esteemed a banquet by his hungry appetite, and thereby highly displeased my wife.”

If you would like an obscure deprecatory term and for some reason calumniatory and contumelious don’t meet your needs, you could do worse than the related word vilipenditory.

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Page created 16 Dec 2006