cyn·​ic | \ ˈsi-nik How to pronounce cynic (audio) \

Definition of cynic

1 : a faultfinding captious critic especially : one who believes that human conduct is motivated wholly by self-interest Of course, there will always be cynics when companies make good-faith apologies and seek to follow through. — Andrew Ross Sorkin
2 capitalized : an adherent of an ancient Greek school of philosophers who held the view that virtue is the only good and that its essence lies in self-control and independence

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Other Words from cynic

cynic adjective

Did You Know?

The ancient Greece school of philosophers known as Cynics was founded by Antisthenes, a contemporary of Plato. Antisthenes is said to have taught at a gymnasium outside Athens called the Kynosarges, from which the name of the school, kynikoi, literally, “doglike ones,” may be derived. On the other hand, the name is most closely associated with the most famous Cynic philosopher, Diogenes of Sinope. Diogenes rejected social conventions and declared that whatever was natural and easy could not be indecent and therefore can and should be done in public. This shamelessness earned him the Greek epithet ho kyōn, “the dog.” In English, however, cynic and cynical have more to do with distrust of motives than shamelessness.

Examples of cynic in a Sentence

He's too much of a cynic to see the benefits of marriage. A cynic might think that the governor visited the hospital just to gain votes. Reporters who cover politics often become cynics.
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Recent Examples on the Web Yes, a cynic might wonder how Mitch McConnell could surpass himself in the obstruction department. Walter Shapiro, The New Republic, "The Botched Democratic Effort to Convict Donald Trump," 13 Feb. 2021 Set in late-1960s Cairo, the six episodes follow hematology professor Refaat Ismail (Ahmed Amin), a chain-smoking cynic who believes only in what science can prove. Los Angeles Times, "8 brilliant TV shows to catch up on during the holidays," 24 Dec. 2020 With his trademark acidity and a perfect mix of optimism and deep bitterness, Fincher tells the tale of a cynic who finally awakens to his artistic talents. David Sims, The Atlantic, "The 10 Best Films of 2020," 10 Dec. 2020 Because Mank was a mere scribe, not a man of action, and a cynic who prided himself on maintaining a wry detachment from his surroundings, the role doesn’t present obvious opportunities for scene-stealing. Kyle Smith, National Review, "David Fincher’s Passion Project," 7 Dec. 2020 The Bears Ears region in southeastern Utah encompasses colorful canyons, mesas, rock formations and views vast enough to fill any cynic with wonder. Alex Ulam, WSJ, "5 Fall Camping Getaways—From Effortless to Truly Adventurous," 14 Oct. 2020 When human values seem built on thin air, count on a Cynic—or if necessary, a mere cynic—to realign them with reality by sneering at their emptiness. Daniel Akst, WSJ, "‘Cynicism’ and ‘The Function of Cynicism at the Present Time’ Review: When Nothing Is Good Enough," 2 Sep. 2020 The rot, in this reading, started with Obama, a professorial cynic of the West, and has culminated in Trump, whose abandonment of the American idea marks a break in world history. Tom Mctague, The Atlantic, "America’s Uniquely Humiliating Moment," 24 June 2020 And yet this claim of moral equivalence is no longer the smear of a foreign cynic but the view of the president of the United States himself. Tom Mctague, The Atlantic, "America’s Uniquely Humiliating Moment," 24 June 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'cynic.' 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 cynic

1542, in the meaning defined at sense 2

History and Etymology for cynic

Middle French or Latin, Middle French cynique, from Latin cynicus, from Greek kynikos, literally, like a dog, from kyn-, kyōn dog — more at hound

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Cite this Entry

“Cynic.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 9 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for cynic



English Language Learners Definition of cynic

: a person who has negative opinions about other people and about the things people do especially : a person who believes that people are selfish and are only interested in helping themselves

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