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 cynical (audio) \ adverb

Synonyms & Antonyms for cynical

Synonyms

Antonyms

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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 there’s plenty of reason to also be cynical about the status quo. Washington Post, "The Americanization of Europe’s beloved game reaches a tipping point," 19 Apr. 2021 There are legitimate reasons for Mare to be cynical. Jen Chaney, Vulture, "Mare of Easttown Is More Than It Appears to Be," 8 Apr. 2021 Decades of deteriorating working conditions in general, and the brutal contraction of writing jobs in particular, means it’s no surprise that many freelancers remain cynical about the prospects for change. Alex Press, The New Republic, "Why Are Freelancers Organizing Against the PRO Act?," 26 Mar. 2021 Some cyberpolicy critics see Biden's sanctions for SolarWinds spying in more cynical terms: an incoherent, knee-jerk response designed to satisfy anyone who'd accuse the administration of being soft on Russia. Andy Greenberg, Wired, "US Sanctions on Russia Rewrite Cyberespionage's Rules," 15 Apr. 2021 Scam, pyramid scheme and tech speculation bubble -- such have been the more cynical responses to the meteoric rise of the NFT (non-fungible token) market. Anny Shaw, CNN, "NFT prices are plummeting. What could this mean for the art world?," 15 Apr. 2021 The more cynical view is that Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, may have been guided more by political convenience than strategic necessity. The Economist, "Not your average blackout Israel apparently strikes an Iranian nuclear facility—again," 12 Apr. 2021 And Emily VanCamp does well with the bigger showcase, and with playing a much more cynical Sharon than the one who flirted with Steve in the movies. Alan Sepinwall, Rolling Stone, "‘The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’: The Man Behind the Mask," 2 Apr. 2021 All of us should be cynical on whether this is going to go toward critical initiatives or to the general fund. Christopher Keating, courant.com, "Climate change bill that could boost Connecticut gasoline prices by 5 to 9 cents per gallon in 2023 advances," 31 Mar. 2021

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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Time Traveler for cynical

Time Traveler

The first known use of cynical was in 1542

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Statistics for cynical

Last Updated

3 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Cynical.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/cynical. Accessed 12 May. 2021.

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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

Comments on cynical

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