Familiarity breeds contempt

Familiarity breeds contempt is a proverb that is thousands of years old. A proverb is a short, common saying or phrase. These common sayings are language tools that particularly give advice or share a universal truth, or impart wisdom. Synonyms for proverb include adage, aphorism, sayings, and byword, which can also be someone or something that is the best example of a group. Often, a proverb is so familiar that a speaker will only quote half of it, relying on the listener to supply the ending of the written or spoken proverb himself. Speakers of English as a second language are sometimes confused by these pithy sayings as translations from English to other languages do not carry the impact that the English phrases carry. Some common proverbs are the wise sayings better late than never, early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise, an apple a day keeps the doctor away, haste makes waste, blood is thicker than water, and a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. One of the books of the Bible is the Book of Proverbs, which contains words and phrases that are still often quoted in the English language because they are wise. Many current proverbs are quotations taken from literature, particularly Shakespeare, as well as the Bible and other sacred writings. We will examine the meaning of the expression familiarity breeds contempt, where it came from, and some examples of its use in sentences.

Familiarity breeds contempt is a proverb that means the better you know someone, the more you will find fault with him. Familiarity breeds contempt means the more time you spend with someone, the more you lose respect for him. The proverb may also mean that the more you are exposed to someone or something, the more bored you become and the less appreciation you have for that person or thing. The expression familiarity breeds contempt was first used in English in the 1300s by Geoffrey Chaucer, in his work, Tale of Melibee. The first use of the phrase is credited to Publilius Syrus, a Roman citizen who began life as a Syrian slave and lived around 50 B.C. His master was so impressed with his intellect that he freed Publilius Syrus and educated him.


“People tend to get too familiar, too comfortable, and the old saying goes, ‘Familiarity breeds contempt.’” (The Chicago Tribune)

These last weeks I have been reminded every day of the saying that familiarity breeds contempt. (The Irish Times)

If familiarity breeds contempt, if sickness and caregiving sap patience and highlight unfair divisions of duty and embolden self-righteousness, the trio also get a kick out of being around each other. (The San Francisco Chronicle)

It is probably a step too far to say “familiarity breeds contempt,” but for many overseas fans — and well over 400,000 attended the tournament — big-time rugby is generally played in the same old venues. (The Japan Times)

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