cynical

adjective
cyn·​i·​cal | \ ˈsi-ni-kəl How to pronounce cynical (audio) \

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 How to pronounce cynical (audio) \ adverb

Synonyms & Antonyms for cynical

Synonyms

Antonyms

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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 Cynicism about college athletics is abundant and perhaps understandable, because some of its practices have given observers good reasons to be cynical. John I. Jenkins, Star Tribune, 2 July 2021 Mary Hollis Inboden does a great job tweaking her performance from the sarcastic, cynical, established version of Patty into someone more vulnerable, more fragile, and — like Thelma, Louise, and Allison did before her — more willing to settle. Roxana Hadadi, Vulture, 4 July 2021 The eccentricity of No Sudden Move is merely cynical, suggesting that Soderbergh lost interest midway. Armond White, National Review, 2 July 2021 Based on the first few episodes, the tone is more bleakly cynical than satirical. oregonlive, 30 June 2021 On the show, the drivers were battle-hardened, cynical. Lauren Smiley, Wired, 22 June 2021 Nobody wants to think politicians could be cynical enough to value them for anything other than the spirit of competition and the love of the game. Mike Finger, San Antonio Express-News, 6 May 2021 Sure, that’s a little cynical, but Earth Day promotions are often just ploys to sell more products, which seems counterintuitive to the first two of environmentalism’s Three Rs. Ian Paul, PCWorld, 22 Apr. 2021 Everyone, that is, except for its shameless and cynical creators. Alex Shephard, The New Republic, 20 Apr. 2021

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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Time Traveler for cynical

Time Traveler

The first known use of cynical was in 1542

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Dictionary Entries Near cynical

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cynical

cynicism

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Last Updated

26 Jul 2021

Cite this Entry

“Cynical.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/cynical. Accessed 30 Jul. 2021.

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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 How to pronounce cynical (audio) \

Kids Definition of cynical

: believing that people are selfish and dishonest

More from Merriam-Webster on cynical

Nglish: Translation of cynical for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of cynical for Arabic Speakers

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