What does the idiom "Familiarity breeds contempt" mean?

You are wondering about the meaning of the phrase Familiarity breeds contempt, maybe you heard it in a TV show, movie or theater play. Although this idiom is not used very often, it enriches your capacity of expression and strengthens communication. In which case is the expression Familiarity breeds contempt used and what is its meaning?

Meaning of "Familiarity breeds contempt"


The phrase “Familiarity breeds contempt” is an idiom that suggests that excessive closeness and too much contact with a person or thing can lead to an averse or negative opinion, or even disdain, for that person or thing. That is, over time seeing or experiencing too much of something can wear away the enchantment, leading to feelings of contempt instead.


This idiomatic phrase originated in the 14th century, first appearing as a proverb in 1380 in John Lydgate’s writings. The phrase referred to the idea of frequenting someone too often, leading one to be overly focused on their faults and shortcomings, rather than their qualities and attractive traits. The phrase was later popularized in 1546 in the writings of the English poet and playwright Thomas Nashe.


This idiom can be used to describe a wide range of situations, from relationships to business or political connections. It can also be used to warn of the dangers of becoming too close to someone or something, and it can be used to predict the likelihood of a negative opinion or feeling arising from familiarity. It is also often used to represent the idea that over-familiarity causes people to take one another for granted, no longer paying attention to the effort one puts in to maintain a relationship or situation.

Example Sentences

  • “I think I've been seeing my friend too often; familiarity is beginning to breed contempt.”
  • “I don't think our relationship will last much longer if we don't start making an effort - familiarity breeds contempt, after all.”
  • “He thought he knew everything about the company, but familiarity breeds contempt, and it all came crashing down.”

The meanings of the words in the "Familiarity breeds contempt" idiom

Idioms with similar meaning

"Don't judge a book by its cover" is an English idiom that means you shouldn't make assumptions about someone or something based solely on its appearance. In Japanese, the similar idiom is "Hana yori dango," which translates to "Dumplings rather than flowers." This idiom means that substance is more important than appearance.


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