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adjective cyn·i·cal \ˈsi-ni-kəl\

Simple Definition of cynical

  • : believing that people are generally selfish and dishonest

  • : selfish and dishonest in a way that shows no concern about treating other people fairly

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of cynical

  1. 1 :  captious, peevish

  2. 2 :  having or showing the attitude or temper of a cynic: as a :  contemptuously distrustful of human nature and motives <those cynical men who say that democracy cannot be honest and efficient — F. D. Roosevelt> b :  based on or reflecting a belief that human conduct is motivated primarily by self-interest <a cynical ploy to win votes>

cynically play \-k(ə-)lē\ adverb

Examples of cynical in a sentence

  1. … if more and more people out there are willing to kill themselves in order to kill us, we've got to give the poor and cynical of the world something positive to believe in. —Robert Reich, Prospect, February 2003

  2. When “Roots” premiered on the ABC network in 1977, my generation of black academics and activists was cynical and outraged. We felt the horrors of slavery were rendered flat and lifeless by the miniseries … —Houston A. Baker, Jr., Vibe, February 2002

  3. It was fear of the Other, the poor, the dying—or to evoke a word with biblical authority—the pestilential. And so I could no longer be cynical about her motives. —Bharati Mukherjee, Time, 14 June 1999

  4. … was quiet spoken, but he had a cynical arch to his brows, as though he were repressing an urge to sneer. —Joseph Wambaugh, The Blooding, 1989

  5. Cynical people say there is no such thing as true love.

  6. People are so cynical nowadays.

  7. She's become more cynical in her old age.

  8. Some people regard the governor's visit to the hospital as a cynical attempt to win votes.

Origin of cynical

(see cynic)

First Known Use: 1542

Synonym Discussion of cynical

cynical, misanthropic, pessimistic mean deeply distrustful. cynical implies having a sneering disbelief in sincerity or integrity <cynical about politicians' motives>. misanthropic suggests a rooted distrust and dislike of human beings and their society <a solitary and misanthropic artist>. pessimistic implies having a gloomy, distrustful view of life <pessimistic about the future>.

Rhymes with cynical

CYNICAL Defined for Kids


adjective cyn·i·cal \ˈsi-nə-kəl\

Definition of cynical for Students

  1. :  believing that people are selfish and dishonest

Seen and Heard

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deserving imitation because of excellence

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