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 President Bolsonaro, Brazil’s far-right demagogue, has the disease, and so do several aides who dined with Trump last weekend at Mar-a-Lago. Laurie Penny, Wired, "Panic, Pandemic, and the Body Politic," 14 Mar. 2020 The most fervent devotees of a cult or demagogue are those who mistake courtship for love and the power of a leader for their own. Greg Jackson, Harper's magazine, "Vicious Cycles," 6 Jan. 2020 Donald Trump is a demagogue with an entertainer’s delivery and a cable channel at his disposable up against entities in media, tech, and politics that are still ill-equipped to tackle him and his tactics. Michael Arceneaux, Essence, "Joe Biden’s Campaign Keeps Being Celebrated For Its ‘Resilience,’ But What About Bernie Sanders?," 18 Dec. 2019 Such feelings are inflamed by demagogues, who wildly exaggerate the threat from a tiny minority of migrants—especially from crime. The Economist, "Voters could make the world twice as rich. Why don’t they?," 16 Nov. 2019 Modi, like Donald Trump, has shown that latent bigotry is a deep resource, more easily mined and exploited by a demagogue than polite society ever allowed itself to believe. Robin Wright, The New Yorker, "The Mail," 12 July 2019 His values are driving Facebook as the company doubles down on policies that empower demagogues and despots and disempower the rest of us. Alex Shephard, The New Republic, "Facebook Is a Right-Wing Company, Part One Million," 18 Dec. 2019 In 1787, the Founding Fathers worried that the people might elect a demagogue, or someone who would appeal to their emotions and facilitate the creation and execution of laws based on fear or anger. Sarah Burns, The Conversation, "Curious Kids: How come Donald Trump won if Hillary Clinton got more votes?," 2 Dec. 2019 People’s anger will increase and then another reactionary demagogue will likely be elected. Letters To The Editor, The Mercury News, "Letter: The U.S. is really a one-party system: the Corporate Party," 24 Sep. 2019 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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Statistics for demagogue

Last Updated

18 Mar 2020

Cite this Entry

“Demagogue.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/demagogue. Accessed 31 Mar. 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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