Definition of cynical
2 : having or showing the attitude or temper of a cynic: such asa : contemptuously distrustful of human nature and motives … those cynical men who say that democracy cannot be honest and efficient. — Franklin D. Rooseveltb : based on or reflecting a belief that human conduct is motivated primarily by self-interest a cynical ploy to win votes
cynicallyplay \ˈsi-ni-k(ə-)lē\ adverb
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.
Recent Examples of cynical from the Web
In a world where nature is under assault on all sides, this kind of take is ruinously, dangerously cynical.
On-court coaching is a cheap and cynical gimmick that the players don’t like.
But an argument can be made that the entire exercise is ill conceived and even somewhat cynical.
My best, most cynical guess is that Valkyria Revolution was made to siphon off some of Chronicles’ cult status—not to mention the attention of fans still fiending for a true follow-up.
Their restless energy and hyperprecise musicianship pair wonderfully with their gleefully cynical sense of humor.
Andrew writes: The cynical thought that Travis would still be there if Uber was profitable is not exactly true, though money did play a key role.
The show’s funny without being jokey, realistic without being cynical.
The reality is more prosaic—and politically cynical.
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.
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).
Synonym Discussion of cynical
CYNICAL Defined for English Language Learners
Definition of cynical for English Language Learners
: believing that people are generally selfish and dishonest
: selfish and dishonest in a way that shows no concern about treating other people fairly
CYNICAL Defined for Kids
Definition of cynical for Students
: believing that people are selfish and dishonest
Seen and Heard
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