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

But as the battle swelled on Tuesday, some aid workers accused the coalition of engaging in cynical manipulations. New York Times, "Battle Intensifies for Yemeni Port as Dock Workers Still Unload Aid," 19 June 2018 Dion reveals a depth of emotion that seems inconceivable to us cynical mortals. Chloe Foussianes, Town & Country, "Céline Dion's Reactions at Couture Fashion Shows Are More Beautiful Than Any Dress Could Be," 24 Jan. 2019 The family-separation debacle illustrates the limits of this cynical calculation’s utility. Jay Willis, GQ, "Kirstjen Nielsen’s Lies About Separating Families at the Border Tell Us Everything," 19 June 2018 Incentives for power and profit on a massive scale motivate the most politically astute and cynical at the expense of the average citizen and a freer economy. WSJ, "Debating the Carbon Tax Dividend Strategy," 24 Jan. 2019 Two decades of cynical, game-playing failure produced him. Peggy Noonan, WSJ, "End This Stupid Shutdown," 10 Jan. 2019 For some, that shift presents as a palpable swing away from youthful optimism and toward the cynical, jaded, world-weary determination of an aged oracle with a thousand-yard-stare. Aja Romano, Vox, "The memes of the 2018 midterm elections reflect a feeling of urgency and determination," 6 Nov. 2018 Steering away from efforts, whether cynical, political, or artistic, to portray the world as a garbage heap, Tomaselli made his escape. David Colman, ELLE Decor, "Art Show: Fred Tomaselli," 1 Nov. 2010 Through this framing, the idea of choosing hope becomes both an existential act that affirms your humanity, and a form of resistance against cynical worldviews that dismiss hope as a powerful force for change. Aja Romano, Vox, "In the era of Trump and apocalyptic change, Hopepunk is a storytelling template for #resistance — and hanging onto your humanity at all costs.," 27 Dec. 2018

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

14 Mar 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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