English Synonyms and Antonyms, by James Champlin Fernald
Abhor is stronger than despise, implying a shuddering recoil, especially a moral recoil. "How many shun evil as inconvenient who do not abhor it as hateful." TrenchSerm. in Westm. Abbey xxvi, 297. [Murray's"New English Dictionary"] Detest expresses indignation, with something of contempt. Loathe implies disgust, physical or moral. We abhor a traitor, despise a coward, detest a liar. We dislike an uncivil person. We abhor cruelty, hate tyranny. We loathe a reptile or a flatterer. We abhor Milton's heroic Satan, but we can not despise him.