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Abusive vs Opprobrious vs Vituperative vs Contumelious vs Scurrilous

Abusive, opprobrious, vituperative, contumelious and scurrilous apply chiefly to language or utterances and to persons as they employ such language: the words agree in meaning coarse, insulting, and contemptuous in character or utterance.

Abusive means little more than this.

  • abusive language
  • an abusive master
  • abusive satire

All the other terms carry specific and distinctive implications.

Opprobrious suggests the imputation of disgraceful actions or of shameful conduct: it implies not only abusiveness but also severe, often unjust, condemnation.

  • They desecrate the shrine . . . in every conceivable way . . . and level the most opprobrious language at the goddess herself.

Vituperative implies indulgence in a stream of insulting language especially in attacking an opponent.

  • the vituperative controversialists of the seventeenth century
  • to restrain this employment of vituperative language
    J. S. M illy

Contumelious adds to opprobrious the implications of insolence and extreme disrespect and usually connotes the bitter humiliation of its victim.

  • with scoffs and scorns and contumelious taunts
  • I . . . expose a chain of causes and effects that Roosevelt himself, if he were alive, would denounce as grossly contumelious to his native purity of spirit—and perhaps in all honesty

Scurrilous often approaches vituperative in suggesting attack and abuse but it always implies gross, vulgar, often obscenely ribald language.

  • they never fail to attack the passengers with all kinds of scurrilous, abusive, and indecent terms
  • may plaster his clean name with scurrilous rhymes!