I'm uncertain why it was voted to close after my edits. How can I clarify or improve How did 'despite' semantically shift to signify 'without being affected by something'??

1 Answer 1


You could, as the closure screed suggests, clarify what you're asking. At present the question gives several citations to show that despite meant and means 'in the face of' or 'no matter what can be done to prevent' and one to show that it also has a sense of "notwithstanding". So far so good, but you then see that notwithstanding has a meaning of "without being affected by" and find some contradiction. I don't know why you say that "'scorn, contempt' is the polar opposite of 'without being affected by'" and you give no reason for the belief. You also assume (or appear to assume) that if one meaning of one word is the same as one meaning of another word, the two are synonyms, or in other words that equality is transitive among English words; the falsity of this is well-known to anyone who has studied the language. Finally, I myself have literally no idea what you mean by "What semantic notions underlie 'scorn, contempt' and 'without being affected by something'?" beyond the dictionary entries you have already cited. You obviously have a question in mind, and it may be a good one; but at present there is no way to tell.

(One possibility that occurred to me while writing this is that you think "without being affected by" in the definition is the same as "without having any feelings about". This would not be entirely unreasonable, since both could be expressed as "without caring about"; but it would be wrong.)

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    I think 'spite' in 'despite' or in 'in spite of' has the connotations of 'scorn, contempt'. And the original question is about the jump from this meaning of spite to the 'despite' meaning.
    – Mitch
    Commented Aug 24, 2019 at 13:36
  • @Mitch: If OP is asking that, my answer would be that there is no jump; merely a different view of 'in the teeth of'. I agree that could be an interesting question, but it isn't there now. Commented Aug 24, 2019 at 15:01
  • That's why it's a poorly made question. "Here's the definition. What up with that?" is a poor question. Also, invoking 'heterological' is an awful red herring (I don't know what that could possibly mean. Also also, Mari-Lou was right, there is a long trend of the OP making this exact same pattern, and not learning how to change the pattern to make it answerable.
    – Mitch
    Commented Aug 24, 2019 at 16:13
  • @Mitch: why not put these insights into your own answer? I am, despite [couldn't resist] popular opinion, not infallible. Commented Aug 24, 2019 at 16:45
  • These insights don't make an answer, they're purely speculation. Or what is usually my answer to these kinds of semantic drift questions "look! the ideas are close!" and I can't articulate it more than that.
    – Mitch
    Commented Aug 24, 2019 at 17:47
  • The system has now automatically deleted the OP, for inactivity, no posted answers and for its negative score.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Aug 26, 2019 at 10:22
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    The OP has resurrected the deleted question, practically word for word How did 'despite' semantically shift to signify 'without being affected by something'? This time it's got 5 upvotes and 3 downvotes.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Aug 27, 2019 at 15:37

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