Origin and usage
The adjective opprobrious is derived from the noun opprobrium which comes from a Latin word meaning ‘infamy’.
Macmillan Dictionary contains an entry for the very formal noun opprobrium but until a couple of weeks ago it did not have an entry for the related adjective opprobrious. The gap was plugged by a dictionary user in India called Shawn Thomas, who submitted an entry to our crowdsourced Open Dictionary. Interestingly, Shawn has identified a sense that is not covered in any other dictionary I have looked at, which all define opprobrious as something like ‘expressing scorn or criticism’. While this is definitely the dominant sense – a corpus search reveals collocates like ‘remark’, ‘epithet’ and ‘language’ – opprobrious is also used to refer to acts and actions that the speaker strongly disapproves of, as shown in Shawn’s example: ‘His actions were opprobrious‘. The quotations below show examples of this meaning from the corpus we use to compile Macmillan Dictionary. While the main purpose of the Open Dictionary is to track new language, our users often submit entries for words that are technical, rare or dated. Provided there is evidence for their use, these are all extremely welcome additions to the dictionary.
“In Plutarch’s Life of Julius Caesar, a story is related that Julius Caesar divorced his wife (Pompeia) because of rumors of opprobrious behavior.”
“This should serve as a stern warning to individuals everywhere who commit opprobrious acts deserving condemnation.”
“A freebooter of the mountains is by no means the opprobrious character in Spain that a robber is in any other country.”
deplorable, outrageous, appalling