Familiarity Breeds Contempt


A very old proverb, familiarity breeds contempt means that knowing someone (or something) too well makes you overlook the good things about the person and to be more aware of their faults, leading to bad feelings and even scorn. This can apply to not only people but processes, organizations, etc.

According to The Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs, the meaning of this adage has changed over time. It originally meant “excessive or misplaced shows of familiarity by a person can engender contempt in others.”


The expression is often used as a standalone statement but can be used as part of a complex sentence.


“Ten years ago I couldn’t wait to start working here but familiarity breeds contempt and now I can’t wait to quit.”

“I can’t believe you two are separating after so long. You have always been such a great couple,” said Becky. “Well, you know what they say,” replied Lynn, “familiarity breeds contempt.”


The idea behind this adage has very old origins but, according to the the American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms, its first recorded use was in Chaucer’s Tale of Melibee (1386):

Men syen that ‘over-greet hoomlynesse [familiarity] engendreth dispreisynge’.

More Idioms Starting with F

More Contempt Idioms

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