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

Some of the most xenophobic, narrow-minded, cynical nativists of today are themselves only three or four generations removed from coming off boats, from being refugees, illiterate, hungry, shoe-less. Amgad Naguib, Twin Cities, "Amgad Naguib: Lazy people don’t immigrate," 11 July 2019 With her bold choices, Dion has established herself as a true risk-taker who clearly enjoys and has fun with fashion -- something that's increasingly hard to come by as trends skew toward the minimal and cynical. Marianna Cerini, CNN Style, "How Celine Dion became the queen of couture week," 4 July 2019 The bill is a cynical ploy intended to increase the chances of passage by keeping voters in the dark. Mercury News & East Bay Times Editorial Boards, The Mercury News, "Editorial: What California school bond lobby wants hidden from voters," 23 June 2019 In 2018, voters gutted Ballot Measure 106, an especially cynical attempt to deny abortions to low-income families. oregonlive.com, "Extending Oregon’s lead in the battle over abortion rights: Steve Duin," 14 June 2019 With its tobacco haze and cynical scribes, the bureau evoked Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur’s The Front Page. Scott Sherman, The New York Review of Books, "A Muckraker’s Progress," 17 June 2019 The less cynical would say UCF’s schedule, not as rigorous as the other top teams, would deservedly keep the Knights out even if the alternative is teams that have lost two or even three games. Ralph D. Russo, The Seattle Times, "For 3rd week, ‘Bama, Clemson, ND, Mich top CFP; UCF’s path," 21 Nov. 2018 Activists for tax redistribution to poorer countries have a more cynical take on how America ended up cooperating internationally. Max De Haldevang, Quartz, "Trump discovers global cooperation isn’t so bad—at least on taxing corporate giants," 10 June 2019 And, again, while there’s excitement that Beto O’Rourke and Pete Buttigieg read books, the fact that both Kamala Harris and Kirsten Gillibrand have written children’s books is treated as something of a cynical ploy. Jennifer Wright, Harper's BAZAAR, "Why Female Presidential Candidates Are Still Overlooked," 18 Apr. 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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Dictionary Entries near cynical

Cynewulf

cynghanedd

cynic

cynical

cynicism

cynic spasm

cynipid

Statistics for cynical

Last Updated

18 Jul 2019

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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

Comments on cynical

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characterized by aphorism

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