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

In every generation, there are those who put country first, who prize service ahead of self, who summon idealism from a cynical age. Caroline Hallemann, Town & Country, "Vice President Mike Pence Pays Tribute to John McCain in Speech at His Memorial Service," 31 Aug. 2018 At 60, artist Jim Hodges has perfected an art of subtle glamour few would even dare in our cynical age. San Francisco Chronicle, "SFChronicle critics’ picks: What to do the week of March 18," 16 Mar. 2018 Durham, North Carolina's Merge Records is reissuing Manos in a lovely new package—on vinyl and CD—and with a slightly different cover and a few bonus tracks. Reissues of '90s records are legion right now, but this is not one to feel cynical about. Taylor Antrim, Vogue, "Taking to Rebecca Gates of The Spinanes, as Manos—a Lost '90s Indie-Rock Classic—Gets a Deluxe Reissue," 5 Dec. 2018 Afghans are deeply cynical about their government, citing corruption and a lack of security and solutions for daily problems that beset millions of people here. Ehsanullah Amiri, WSJ, "Afghans Cast Votes Amid Deadly Violence," 20 Oct. 2018 The idea that Trump’s obsession with the migrant caravan was a cynical midterm ploy that would be abandoned the minute the polls closed was always wrong. Dara Lind, Vox, "Trumpism doesn’t win majorities. And Trump doesn’t care.," 7 Nov. 2018 The first Sicario, written by Taylor Sheridan, had a cynical view of the war on drugs. David Sims, The Atlantic, "Sicario: Day of the Soldado," 2 July 2018 Public health groups and other soda tax supporters have decried the deal as a cynical ploy to protect beverage companies' profits and further evidence of their political power in Sacramento. Alexei Koseff, sacbee, "Soda tax ban for California cities heads to Jerry Brown," 28 June 2018 Republicans, on the other hand, say the controversy is a cynical ploy meant to smear the names of nominees who are simply following the rules of judicial ethics. CNN, "More fireworks in store on Capitol Hill for Trump's judicial nominees," 17 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

9 May 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

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