cynical

adjective
cyn·i·cal | \ ˈsi-ni-kəl \

Definition of cynical 

1 : having or showing the attitude or temper of a cynic: such as

a : contemptuously distrustful of human nature and motives … those cynical men who say that democracy cannot be honest and efficient. —Franklin D. Roosevelt

b : based on or reflecting a belief that human conduct is motivated primarily by self-interest a cynical ploy to win votes

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Other words from cynical

cynically \ˈsi-ni-k(ə-)lē \ adverb

Synonyms & Antonyms for cynical

Synonyms

misanthropic, pessimistic

Antonyms

uncynical

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Choose the Right Synonym for 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

Out of the kennel: the history of cynical

Cynical has a certain amount of dog in its ancestry, although not in the way that you might think. In ancient Greece, the followers of the philosopher Antisthenes were referred to as kynikos (“doglike”); when cynical was first used in English, it often was in reference to this group of philosophers.

A number of other English words have a canine history as well: harass can be traced to a word in Middle French (harer) meaning “to set a dog on;” sarcasm comes from a Greek word (sarkazein) which means “to tear flesh like dogs;” and even the word for a completely different animal, the canary, comes from a word for dog (the explanation for this seeming incongruity is that the bird comes from the Canary Islands, the name of which comes from the Latin for “dog islands,” Canariae insulae).

Examples of cynical in a Sentence

… 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 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 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 … 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 Cynical people say there is no such thing as true love. People are so cynical nowadays. She's become more cynical in her old age. Some people regard the governor's visit to the hospital as a cynical attempt to win votes.
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Recent Examples on the Web

Barr has shrewdly recognized the political moment — her character, Roseanne Conner, is a Trump voter — but this new Roseanne is not an easy, cynical attempt to milk the original. Tom Gliatto, PEOPLE.com, "Roseanne Review: ABC's Reboot Has Shrewdly Recognized the Political Moment," 27 Mar. 2018 Despite the industry’s problems, Cam is more hopeful than cynical. Trevor Fraser, OrlandoSentinel.com, "Cam stands up for women in music, joins Sam Smith in Orlando," 10 July 2018 Chapron rolled forward onto the turf and then, a split-second after tumbling, swiped his right leg at Carlos — like a player would do when making a cynical foul on an opponent. Jerome Pugmire, The Seattle Times, "Referee rage: Official lashes out at player in French game," 14 Jan. 2018 For some, a more cynical approach is a new experience, one that has paid dividends. Martin Rogers, USA TODAY, "The World Cup is getting seriously dirty now," 4 July 2018 Supporters of the new taxes and fees have a more cynical view. Rachel Swan, SFChronicle.com, "In fighting California gas tax, national Republicans see rallying point," 26 June 2018 But other data point to a more cynical explanation. Riley Griffin, chicagotribune.com, "When it comes to tipping for service, millennials are cheapest," 18 June 2018 His goals are extreme, but his process is apparently painless, and — call me cynical — almost certain not to be permanent. Gary Thompson, Philly.com, "Think these movies are too gory? The Greek myths they're based on are worse," 12 July 2018 The stirring conclusion should satisfy all but the most cynical in the audience. Stephen Farber, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Piano to Zanskar': Film Review | Edinburgh 2018," 5 July 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'cynical.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of cynical

1542, in the meaning defined at sense 2

History and Etymology for cynical

see cynic

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Learn More about cynical

Dictionary Entries near cynical

Cynewulf

cynghanedd

cynic

cynical

cynicism

cynic spasm

cynipid

Statistics for cynical

Last Updated

12 Sep 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for cynical

The first known use of cynical was in 1542

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More Definitions for cynical

cynical

adjective

English Language Learners 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

cynical

adjective
cyn·i·cal | \ ˈsi-nə-kəl \

Kids Definition of cynical

: believing that people are selfish and dishonest

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