Simple Definition of sycophant
: a person who praises powerful people in order to get their approval
Full Definition of sycophant
: a servile self-seeking flatterer
Examples of sycophant in a sentence
His press conference on January 11 was all aimed toward a single moment. The President was at his rostrum at the Élysée, with a crowd of courtiers, journalists, and sycophants herded behind a velvet rope. One reporter was allowed across the rope to put the same question, in exactly the same words, as he had put when Chirac had been nearing the end of his first term: Would he perhaps consider standing for a further five years? —Julian Barnes, New York Review, 29 Mar. 2007
And swirling all around were coteries of agents, managers, execs, and moneymen; publicists and journalists, gawkers and sycophants. —Daniel Fierman et al., Entertainment Weekly, 9 June 2006
Where his father liked to have sycophants, he likes to be with intellectuals. He likes confrontation. —Franklin Foer, New Republic, 14 Jan. 2002
<when her career was riding high, the self-deluded actress often mistook sycophants for true friends>
Did You Know?
In ancient Greece, sykophantēs meant "slanderer." It derives from two other Greek words, sykon (meaning "fig") and phainein (meaning "to show or reveal"). How did fig revealers become slanderers? One theory has to do with the taxes Greek farmers were required to pay on the figs they brought to market. Apparently, the farmers would sometimes try to avoid making the payments, but squealers—fig revealers—would fink on them, and they would be forced to pay. Another possible source is a sense of the word fig meaning "a gesture or sign of contempt" (as thrusting a thumb between two fingers). In any case, Latin retained the "slanderer" sense when it borrowed a version of sykophantēs, but by the time English speakers in the 16th century borrowed it as sycophant, the squealers had become flatterers.
Origin of sycophant
Latin sycophanta slanderer, swindler, from Greek sykophantēs slanderer, from sykon fig + phainein to show — more at fancy
First Known Use: 1575
Synonym Discussion of sycophant
Seen and Heard
What made you want to look up sycophant? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).