Can Despise Be Used as a Noun?

Despise is a verb that means to regard with contempt or scorn. It expresses a strong feeling of dislike or disapproval towards someone or something. Many wonder if there is a noun form of “despise” that captures its meaning in a substantive way. This article explores whether despise can function as a noun.

The Challenges of Turning Verbs into Nouns

In English, it is common to turn verbs into nouns by adding suffixes like “-tion”, “-ment”, “-al”, “-ance”, or “-ence”. For example, act becomes action, argue becomes argument, and govern becomes governance. However, some verbs resist being verbed into nouns so easily.

Despise is one such tricky verb. There is no simple noun form like “despisation” in modern English. So how can we capture the meaning of despise in a noun? Let’s examine some options.

Rare and Obsolete Forms: Despisal and Despising

There are two obscure noun forms of despise that existed in old or literary English:


Despisal is a very rare, mostly obsolete term meaning “the act of despising” or “contempt”. Some dictionaries from the 17th and 18th centuries list “despisal’ as a noun form. However, it never gained widespread usage and sounds quite awkward and unfamiliar today.


Despising as a noun means “the state or quality of despising”. It functions as a verbal noun, capturing the action of the verb despise. However, despising is also rarely used in modern English.

While these forms technically exist, they are so obscure and outdated that most readers would not recognize them. So they do not work well as noun forms of despise in contemporary writing and speech.

Using the Gerund Form: Despising

Another option is using the -ing verb form despising as a gerund, which functions as a noun. For example:

“His despising of authority figures got him into trouble at school.”

“She looked upon his actions with great despising.”

Gerunds allow us to discuss the act or state of despising as a concept. However, gerunds still convey a sense of action and process. They do not fully capture despise as a static noun.

Descriptive Nouns and Phrases

Since no common single-word noun form exists, the best option is to describe the meaning of despise using a noun phrase:

  • Feeling of contempt
  • Disdain
  • Scornful attitude
  • Contemptuousness
  • Sense of loathing

For example:

“She regarded his ideas with a deep feeling of contempt.”

“His scornful attitude towards foreigners was despicable.”

These descriptive phrases accurately capture the meaning of despise as a noun. They work well because readers instantly grasp the intended sense.

Using Abstract Nouns

Abstract nouns like contempt, disdain, scorn, loathing, and hatred can also express the meaning of despise as a noun:

“She felt only contempt for his cowardly actions.”

“He showed open disdain for the opinions of others.”

“Her scorn was obvious whenever he walked into the room.”

These abstract nouns embody the same spirit of negativity and disgust that despise conveys. Since they perfectly encapsulate the state of despising, they work very well in place of a noun form.

When to Use “Despisal” and “Despising”

The terms despisal and despising have a place in literary or poetic writing where obscure language iswelcomed. Using these rare forms creates a tone of antiquity or solemnity.

However, in most modern contexts, opting for descriptive noun phrases or emotional abstract nouns is the best approach. They clearly communicate meaning without sounding excessively formal or archaic.

In Summary

While no common noun form of despise exists in modern English, there are a few options to express its meaning:

  • The obsolete nouns “despisal” and “despising”
  • The gerund despising
  • Descriptive noun phrases like “feeling of contempt”
  • Abstract nouns like scorn, disdain, loathing

For most situations that call for a noun form of despise, using a descriptive phrase or related abstract noun will be the most effective and familiar choice. But despisal and despising have their place when deliberately using obscure, literary language.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is “despisement” a word?

No, “despisement” is not an accepted English word. It is sometimes used incorrectly in an attempt to create a noun form of despise.

What’s the difference between despise, loathe, hate, and detest?

These words express varying degrees of intense dislike:

  • Despise implies deep contempt.
  • Loathe suggests disgust and revulsion.
  • Hate indicates intense hostility or aversion.
  • Detest conveys abhorrence and antipathy.

Can you use despise as a noun in a sentence?

Yes, for example:

  • His obvious despise for ethnic minorities was shocking.
  • She looked upon his actions with absolute despise.

However, using abstract nouns or descriptive phrases is often clearer and more natural:

  • His contempt for ethnic minorities was shocking.
  • She looked upon his actions with feelings of utter loathing.

Key Takeaways

  • No common noun form of “despise” exists in modern English.
  • The obsolete terms “despisal” and “despising” function as nouns but are rarely used today.
  • Gerunds like “despising” can act as nouns but convey ongoing action.
  • Descriptive noun phrases clearly capture despise’s meaning for most contexts.
  • Abstract nouns like scorn, contempt, and loathing effectively embody the state of despising.


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