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noun dem·a·gogue \ˈde-mə-ˌgäg\

Simple Definition of demagogue

  • : a political leader who tries to get support by making false claims and promises and using arguments based on emotion rather than reason

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of demagogue

  1. 1 :  a leader who makes use of popular prejudices and false claims and promises in order to gain power

  2. 2 :  a leader championing the cause of the common people in ancient times

demagoguery play \-ˌgä-g(ə-)rē\ noun
demagogy play \-ˌgä-gē, -ˌgä-jē, -ˌgō-jē\ noun

Examples of demagogue in a sentence

  1. Like other good Whigs, they had assumed that the people, once free of English influence, would honor and elevate the country's true patriots and natural aristocracy in ways that the English Crown had not. But when in the decades following the Revolution the people seemed to succumb to the deceit and flattery of mushroom demagogues, who were the popular counterparts of courtiers, the Federalists became bewildered and bitter. —Gordon S. Wood, Revolutionary Characters, 2006

  2. Before the U.S. could begin to help Haiti rebuild its ravaged democracy last week, it first had to remove a raving demagogue. —Tim Padgett et al., Time, 15 Mar. 2004

  3. Here's the background: Tennessee's finances are a mess. The state is facing a shortfall of some $310 million—but legislators remember what happened last year when they considered imposing the first income tax on wages. Goaded by talk-radio demagogues, hundreds of citizens surrounded the Statehouse in a near riot. —Editor & Publisher, 4 Feb. 2002

  4. His opponent called him a bigoted demagogue.

  5. <that politician is just a demagogue who preys upon people's fears and prejudices>

Did You Know?

When the ancient Greeks used dēmagōgos (from dēmos, meaning "people," and agein, "to lead") they meant someone good-a leader who used outstanding oratorical skills to further the interests of the common people. Mid-17th-century writers such as Thomas Hobbes and John Dryden-and, later, Jonathan Swift-employed the English word that way. But, at the same time, the word took a negative turn, coming to suggest one who uses powers of persuasion to sway and mislead. "A plausible, insignificant word, in the mouth of an expert demagogue, is a dangerous and a dreadful weapon," declared Robert South, known for his sermons, in 1716.

Variants of demagogue

also demagog play \ˈde-mə-ˌgäg\

Origin of demagogue

Greek dēmagōgos, from dēmos people (perhaps akin to Greek daiesthai to divide) + agōgos leading, from agein to lead — more at tide, agent

First Known Use: 1648



verb, dem·a·gogue \ˈde-mə-ˌgäg\

Definition of demagogue

demagogued also demagogeddemagoguing also demagoging

  1. intransitive verb
  2. :  to behave like a demagogue

  3. transitive verb
  4. :  to treat (as an issue) in the manner of a demagogue

Examples of demagogue in a sentence

  1. But Clinton's boldness seemed to work, at least within the Beltway. House Republicans mostly stifled the urge to demagogue against his plan. —Tom Morganthau et al., Newsweek, 11 Dec. 1995

Variants of demagogue

also demagog play \ˈde-mə-ˌgäg\

Origin of demagogue

(see 1demagogue)

First Known Use: 1656

Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up demagogue? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a timid, meek, or unassertive person

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