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

Other Words from cynical

cynically \ ˈsi-​ni-​k(ə-​)lē How to pronounce cynical (audio) \ adverb

Synonyms & Antonyms for cynical

Synonyms

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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. See More
Recent Examples on the Web Of course, others are cynical that anything will ever change. Jane Thier, Fortune, 1 Aug. 2022 In the harsh and cynical world of international diplomacy, prisoner exchanges are rarely pretty, but unpalatable choices are often the only choices on the table. New York Times, 28 July 2022 Because what follows is Saul in all his glory: partying all night, working every minute of the day, barking orders through his earpiece at the increasingly bitter and cynical Francesca. Alan Sepinwall, Rolling Stone, 19 July 2022 If that seems cynical, recall that Evans replaced Tim Allen after Disney progressives’ political purge. Armond White, National Review, 17 June 2022 In times of crisis, depriving them of bare necessities would be cynical. Kenneth Rapoza, Forbes, 11 July 2022 Some observers have been downright cynical about Goldman’s motives, calling the policy a cost-saving move. New York Times, 27 May 2022 This, combined with a five-year romantic liaison with one of the most important art critics of the time, Clement Greenberg, made fellow artists envious and other critics cynical about her achievements. Carol Strickland, The Christian Science Monitor, 22 Mar. 2021 More architectural losses are certain, given the prevailing political winds, which are cynical. Philip Kennicott, Washington Post, 17 May 2022 See More

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.

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

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The first known use of cynical was in 1542

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Dictionary Entries Near cynical

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Last Updated

7 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Cynical.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/cynical. Accessed 15 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for cynical

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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