Definition of cynical
- … those cynical men who say that democracy cannot be honest and efficient.
- —Franklin D. Roosevelt
- a cynical ploy to win votes
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.
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.
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).
: believing that people are generally selfish and dishonest
: selfish and dishonest in a way that shows no concern about treating other people fairly
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