cynical

adjective
cyn·​i·​cal | \ˈsi-ni-kəl \

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 \ adverb

Synonyms & Antonyms for cynical

Synonyms

misanthropic, pessimistic

Antonyms

uncynical

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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

Yet even in this cynical age, the court has maintained formidable public support. James Hohmann, Washington Post, "The Daily 202: Five times Anthony Kennedy was the fifth vote shows the significance of his retirement," 28 June 2018 Sports Illustrated ran a photo of angry Algerian fans in the Sporting Gijoin's ancient El Molinon stadium waving cash in cynical commentary. David J. Neal, miamiherald, "Why are the last matches in each World Cup group played at the same time?," 26 June 2018 Spiliadis is a savvy businessman and an idealist, an admirable combination in a world so jaded, snarky and cynical. Dan Rodricks, baltimoresun.com, "Rodricks: This restaurateur has something for the man who stole from him: a job," 2 June 2018 Anyone else kinda cynical about this Taylor swift vs Apple thing? Samantha Leal, Marie Claire, "Taylor Swift Will Permit Apple to Stream Her Music After All," 25 June 2015 Lord and Miller make weird, improv-heavy movies that transcend their cynical-sounding origins. Scott Meslow, GQ, "Solo: A Star Wars Story," 25 May 2018 Damascus Cover ends on a lightly cynical twist intended to critique the morally dubious backstage deal-making behind superpower spy games. Stephen Dalton, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Damascus Cover': Film Review," 4 July 2018 This shockingly cynical approach evoked memories of the notorious match played out between West Germany and Austria in Spain in 1982 - a 1-0 win for the Germans in which both teams seemed to stop playing after an early goal had been scored. SI.com, "World Cup Preview: Belgium vs Japan - Recent Form, Team News, Previous Encounter & More," 1 July 2018 But Democrats Friday called it a cynical move with real-world consequences for women. NBC News, "On response to Trump's new abortion rule, critics say they're not 'ruling anything out'," 18 May 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

5 Dec 2018

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 \

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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