Origins of Common Words - Insult

About the history, origins, and definitions of the common word insult.


Insult - Literally "to leap upon," from the Latin insultare, a compound of in plus sultare, "to leap." Through the 18th century, to insult was to attack in a very real and physical sense, quite literally to jump at. Soldiers were known to insult the enemy, contagious diseases to insult their victims, foam-capped waves to insult the rocky shore. The figurative meaning "to scorn" dates back to 1592, and gradually replaced the literal meaning with a contemptuous scorn that was often far more debilitating.

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