n. stubborn perverseness or rebelliousness; willful and obstinate resistance or disobedience to authority.

Contumacy can come either as a simply synonym for “obstinacy,” or it can carry connotations of petulant resistance to authority, depending on how one uses it. It comes from the Middle English contumacie, which itself is derived from the Latin word for “insolent,” which gives support for its latter usage.

One can see it, in fact, from The Parson’s Tale (from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales).

And thogh so be that no man kan outrely telle the nombre of the twigges and of the harmes that cometh of pride, yet wol I shewe a partie of hem, as ye shul understonde. Ther is inobedience, avauntynge, ypocrisie, despit, arrogance, inpudence, swellynge of herte, insolence, elacioun, inpacience, strif, contumacie, presumpcioun, irreverence, pertinacie, veyne glorie, and many another twig that I kan nat declare.

§1498 · November 8, 2006 · Tags: ·

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