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sycophant

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noun sy·co·phant \ˈsi-kə-fənt also ˈsī- & -ˌfant\

Simple Definition of sycophant

  • : a person who praises powerful people in order to get their approval

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of sycophant

  1. :  a servile self-seeking flatterer

sycophant adjective

Examples of sycophant in a sentence

  1. 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

  2. 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

  3. Where his father liked to have sycophants, he likes to be with intellectuals. He likes confrontation. —Franklin Foer, New Republic, 14 Jan. 2002

  4. <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

parasite, sycophant, toady, leech, sponge mean a usually obsequious flatterer or self-seeker. parasite applies to one who clings to a person of wealth, power, or influence or is useless to society <a jet-setter with an entourage of parasites>. sycophant adds to this a strong suggestion of fawning, flattery, or adulation <a powerful prince surrounded by sycophants>. toady emphasizes the servility and snobbery of the self-seeker <cultivated leaders of society and became their toady>. leech stresses persistence in clinging to or bleeding another for one's own advantage <a leech living off his family and friends>. sponge stresses the parasitic laziness, dependence, and opportunism of the cadger <a shiftless sponge, always looking for a handout>.


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