demagogue

noun
dem·a·gogue | \ˈde-mə-ˌgäg \
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
dem·a·gogue | \ˈde-mə-ˌgäg \
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 \-ˌgä-g(ə-)rē \ noun
demagogy \-ˌgä-gē, -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, lawmakers had no qualms about publicly calling Trump a demagogue and a fool. Washington Post, "Trump will get red carpet treatment in UK — and big protests," 11 July 2018 Still, lawmakers had no qualms about publicly calling Trump a demagogue and a fool. BostonGlobe.com, "President Trump will get red carpet treatment in UK — and big protests," 11 July 2018 That is his definition, but ethnic nationalist demagogues offering simplistic solutions based on blaming the other for all that ails society can also be defined as fascists. New York Times, "Letters to the Editor," 16 Feb. 2018 Some of the book’s most surprising passages describe how political leaders well outside Meacham’s pantheon stood up to racists and right-wing demagogues. Sean Wilentz, New York Times, "A Battle for the ‘Soul of America’? It’s as Old as America, One Historian Notes," 21 May 2018 No demagogue could use raw emotion to win the support of a whole major political party in those days because the people trusted the government. David Kaiser, Time, "How Early Warnings About the Effect of Television on American Politics Came True," 23 Mar. 2018 The resulting picture of dysfunction provides continual fodder for anti-immigration demagogues. David A. Martin, Vox, "How to fix the crisis caused by Central American asylum seekers — humanely," 2 July 2018 There is a reason that Romans 13:1 has been the Bible verse of choice for demagogues and upholders of inequitable systems. Jonathan L. Walton, Time, "Why Authoritarians Love to Quote This Bible Passage," 22 June 2018 Executives have fired back with newspaper ads charging the leftist politician, who is making his third run for the presidency, is a populist demagogue who would set Mexico back decades by returning it to a time of heavy-handed state intervention. Fox News, "In Mexico, longtime foes 'AMLO' and elite getting pragmatic," 19 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

The moves in many cases are the logical culmination of a presidential campaign rooted in Donald Trump's willingness to demagogue immigration controversies in order to inflame his conservative voting base. Stephen Collinson, CNN, "Impact of Trump's immigration vision comes into focus in Washington," 14 June 2018 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 And any would-be immigration deal was undercut by his shameful willingness to demagogue a handful of murder cases to stir up xenophobia against all migrants, especially brown ones. Will Bunch, Philly.com, "Trump and his teleprompter assure America that the State of the Union is strong. No, really | Will Bunch," 30 Jan. 2018 On Friday Trump will visit Long Island, where 15 members of MS-13 were arrested—a trip that would fit a political plan to demagogue Hispanic immigrants as imminent threats to white Americans, and white women in particular. Jamelle Bouie, Slate Magazine, "Make America Afraid Again," 27 July 2017

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

15 Oct 2018

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

: 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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