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HomeAuthorGeoffrey ChaucerFamiliarity breeds contempt. - Meaning

Familiarity breeds contempt. – Meaning

Familiarity breeds contempt.
Geoffrey Chaucer

What does ‘Familiarity breeds contempt’ mean?

The more we become familiar with someone, or with someplace, or with a situation, the more likely we are to take them lightly or show less respect. Knowing too much about someone or something leads us to discover their deepest shortcomings, and ultimately that causes contempt.

Doing risky things too often makes us familiar with them, and when we are familiar with them, we become comfortable with them. However, does it not still present a certain amount of risk regardless of whether we feel comfortable with it or not?

For example, fear is likely to accompany us when we drive a car at a higher speed. But if we do it too often and get used to driving at a faster speed, we lose respect for fear, and it may no longer be frightening. While crashing still carries the same level of risk as before, there is no longer any fear associated with it.

Isn’t it true that the most picturesque place in the world doesn’t seem as lovely when you live there permanently and see it every day? If we have something in abundance, do we not lose sight of its significance?

Origin of this phrase

There have been thousands of years since this expression was first used. The expression is attributed to Publilius, a Roman author from ancient times. The same phrase was used by Pope Innocent III almost a thousand years later.

The first use of this expression in English was attributed to Geoffrey Chaucer. It appeared in Tale of Melibee, written in the 1300s.


What are some examples of this phrase?

  1. When two people are familiar with each other without hiding anything and both of them give their all, I do not think familiarity breeds contempt.
  2. Because familiarity breeds contempt, I am no longer close to my friend.
  3. It is no longer fun for me to visit places I am familiar with; familiarity breeds contempt.
  4. Knowing him so well makes me dislike him even more because familiarity breeds contempt.
  5. Let’s not get too comfortable with each other, let’s not get too close, because too much familiarity breeds contempt.
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