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 cynically (audio) \ 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

Mad Men walked a thin line between demystifying and fetishizing the Sixties, but its take on human nature was refreshingly cynical. Adam Wilson, Harper's magazine, "Good Bad Bad Good," 16 Sep. 2019 Opponents of Johnson’s move view it as a cynical and perhaps unconstitutional maneuver. Laura Beers, The Conversation, "Why the queen said yes to Boris Johnson’s request to suspend Parliament," 29 Aug. 2019 Hulu's new documentary Jawline shows both the hopeful side of wanna-be social media famous kids, and also the more cynical side. Martha Sorren, refinery29.com, "Why Michael Weist From Hulu's New Documentary Jawline May Sound Familiar," 24 Aug. 2019 The show’s exclusive focus on providing men with physical upgrades now plays as cynical. Amanda Hess, New York Times, "The New Spiritual Consumerism," 19 Aug. 2019 There's also Peter Weber, whose breakup with Brown on last night's episode made even the most cynical Bachelor viewers tear up. Christopher Rosa, Glamour, "A Complete Breakdown of Everyone Who Could Be the Next Bachelor," 30 July 2019 This was a photo moment Mugabe would not let pass though Marechera was right to have been cynical. Tinashe Mushakavanhu, Quartz Africa, "The Zimbabwean writer who was Robert Mugabe’s nemesis," 7 Sep. 2019 Meanwhile, the work of artists outlives them, operating on minds too young to be cynical. Philip Kennicott, chicagotribune.com, "Obituaries are the only redemptive news anymore," 8 Aug. 2019 In fact, my dream of the Greek islands includes (some people who are unduly cynical about my Hellenic literary infatuation—i.e. Adam Gopnik, Town & Country, "My First Visit to the Greek Islands Turned Out to Be a Journey Home," 20 May 2019

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

10 Oct 2019

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 How to pronounce cynical (audio) \

Kids Definition of cynical

: believing that people are selfish and dishonest

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More from Merriam-Webster on cynical

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with cynical

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for cynical

Spanish Central: Translation of cynical

Nglish: Translation of cynical for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of cynical for Arabic Speakers

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