demagogue

noun
dem·​a·​gogue | \ ˈde-mə-ˌgäg How to pronounce demagogue (audio) \
variants: or less commonly demagog

Definition of demagogue

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a leader who makes use of popular prejudices and false claims and promises in order to gain power
2 : a leader championing the cause of the common people in ancient times

demagogue

verb
variants: or less commonly demagog
demagogued also demagoged; demagoguing also demagoging

Definition of demagogue (Entry 2 of 2)

intransitive verb

: to behave like a demagogue

transitive verb

: to treat (something, such as an issue) in the manner of a demagogue

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Other Words from demagogue

Noun

demagoguery \ ˈde-​mə-​ˌgä-​g(ə-​)rē How to pronounce demagoguery (audio) \ noun
demagogy \ ˈde-​mə-​ˌgä-​gē How to pronounce demagogy (audio) , -​ˌgä-​jē , -​ˌgō-​jē \ noun

Did You Know?

Noun

When the ancient Greeks used dēmagōgos (from dēmos, meaning "people," and agein, "to lead") they meant someone good-a leader who used outstanding oratorical skills to further the interests of the common people. Mid-17th-century writers such as Thomas Hobbes and John Dryden-and, later, Jonathan Swift-employed the English word that way. But, at the same time, the word took a negative turn, coming to suggest one who uses powers of persuasion to sway and mislead. "A plausible, insignificant word, in the mouth of an expert demagogue, is a dangerous and a dreadful weapon," declared Robert South, known for his sermons, in 1716.

Examples of demagogue in a Sentence

Noun

Like other good Whigs, they had assumed that the people, once free of English influence, would honor and elevate the country's true patriots and natural aristocracy in ways that the English Crown had not. But when in the decades following the Revolution the people seemed to succumb to the deceit and flattery of mushroom demagogues, who were the popular counterparts of courtiers, the Federalists became bewildered and bitter. — Gordon S. Wood, Revolutionary Characters, 2006 Before the U.S. could begin to help Haiti rebuild its ravaged democracy last week, it first had to remove a raving demagogue. — Tim Padgett et al., Time, 15 Mar. 2004 Here's the background: Tennessee's finances are a mess. The state is facing a shortfall of some $310 million—but legislators remember what happened last year when they considered imposing the first income tax on wages. Goaded by talk-radio demagogues, hundreds of citizens surrounded the Statehouse in a near riot. Editor & Publisher, 4 Feb. 2002 His opponent called him a bigoted demagogue. that politician is just a demagogue who preys upon people's fears and prejudices

Verb

But Clinton's boldness seemed to work, at least within the Beltway. House Republicans mostly stifled the urge to demagogue against his plan. — Tom Morganthau et al., Newsweek, 11 Dec. 1995

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Still, Morrison’s speech repudiated the idea that language uttered by those with good or clear intent would inoculate minorities against the rants of despots or demagogues, ignorant, thoughtless people who espouse racist ideas. Syreeta Mcfadden, The Atlantic, "What Toni Morrison Knew About Trump," 13 Aug. 2019 Borderlands 3, according to its writers, is canonically about how populist demagogues exploit social media, resentment, and fandom to fill the cultural gaps left by powerful corporations. Adi Robertson, The Verge, "Borderlands 3 has a billion guns, and its most dangerous weapon is vlogging," 14 Aug. 2019 Coverage at stations tilted toward Berlusconi in the 1994 election, soon after scandals felled the conservative government and inspired the entrepreneur turned populist demagogue to throw his hat in the ring. Andrew Van Dam, Washington Post, "How trashy TV made children dumber and enabled a wave of populist leaders," 20 July 2019 What had been the wealthiest nation in South America is now a wasteland of poverty for the citizens, and a golden throne built on theft and corruption by the current totalitarian demagogues. Dp Opinion, The Denver Post, "Letters: Private-public partnership for U.S. 36 was a mistake (7/17/19)," 18 July 2019 The devastating loss of its special status has exposed this central Western ideology to mockery from demagogues such as Putin and the Hungarian leader Viktor Orban. Pankaj Mishra, Twin Cities, "Pankaj Mishra: Putin’s wrong, but so are liberals," 11 July 2019 Yet last year, during the 2018 presidential election that swept far-right demagogue Jair Bolsonaro to power, falsehoods like this one built into a crescendo that distorted political conversations beyond any semblance of reality. Olivia Goldhill, Quartz, "Propaganda spread by data “bombs” pushed Brazil’s far-right president to power," 10 July 2019 By 1938, millions of Americans listened weekly as Father Charles Coughlin, a Catholic demagogue, celebrated the rise of fascism and decried the existence of the Jews. Fred Turner, Harper's magazine, "Machine Politics," 10 Jan. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

So are people going to demagogue issues for their convenience? Alex Daugherty And David Smiley, miamiherald, "Are Miami Democrats overplaying their hand on Trump's 'animals' comment? | Miami Herald," 17 May 2018 With an election coming, advantage goes to those who stayed on the sidelines of the fight and now can demagogue on impossible solutions that would impose no pain and deliver free goodies. Author: Charles Wohlforth | Opinion, Anchorage Daily News, "A $5,000 dividend would put the ‘Alaska experiment’ in deep danger," 2 Mar. 2018

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

Noun

1648, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Verb

1656, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense

History and Etymology for demagogue

Noun

borrowed from Greek dēmagōgós, from dêmos "people" + -agōgos "leading, impelling" — more at demo-, -agogue

Verb

verbal derivative of demagogue entry 1

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Dictionary Entries near demagogue

demagnify

demagogic

demagogism

demagogue

demain

de mal en pis

demand

Statistics for demagogue

Last Updated

17 Sep 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for demagogue

The first known use of demagogue was in 1648

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More Definitions for demagogue

demagogue

noun

English Language Learners Definition of demagogue

disapproving : a political leader who tries to get support by making false claims and promises and using arguments based on emotion rather than reason

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