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 One of the great dangers of the current moment is that some genuinely talented demagogue will comprehend the essentially cultic aspect of the current disorder and capitalize on it. Kevin D. Williamson, National Review, "The Lives of the Martyrs," 4 Sep. 2020 Trump is not the first demagogue or conspiracy theorist to hold federal office. Isaac Schorr, National Review, "How Donald Trump Made Laura Loomer’s Primary Win Possible," 20 Aug. 2020 The base rhetoric of populist demagogues around the world is terrifyingly simple. Laurence Scott, Wired, "Star Trek: Picard, Fancy Sheets, and the Meaning of Home," 28 Mar. 2020 But its protagonist, a young German boy who worships the Fuhrer, also serves as a vivid reminder, not just of the dangers of blind devotion to a demagogue, but of the human capacity to reclaim one’s moral center. Ann Hornaday, Washington Post, "At the Toronto International Film Festival, movies grapple with a confounding present by revisiting the past," 12 Sep. 2019 Chávez was a gifted demagogue who used majority backing to gradually but relentlessly destroy democratic institutions. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "Revolt in Venezuela," 23 Jan. 2019 Charismatic politicians, and demagogues, have always known how to dramatize life as a struggle between black and white, between good and evil. Olivia B. Waxman, Time, "Oliver North Will Be the Next President of the NRA. Here's What to Know About the Arms Deal That Made Him Famous," 7 May 2018 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb 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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Time Traveler for demagogue

Time Traveler

The first known use of demagogue was in 1648

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Last Updated

10 Sep 2020

Cite this Entry

“Demagogue.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/demagogue. Accessed 25 Sep. 2020.

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More Definitions for demagogue

demagogue

noun
How to pronounce demagogue (audio)

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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