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

The Founding Fathers were not unaware of the possibility that a demagogue or a knave might win the presidency. Ezra Klein, Vox, "The crisis isn’t Trump. It’s his Republican enablers.," 6 Sep. 2018 Mexico’s next president could be a leftist demagogue or a practical reformer. James Hohmann, Washington Post, "The Daily 202: Trump lost a battle on family separations, but his immigration war continues," 21 June 2018 At a time when various African nations are shrugging off long-ruling demagogues, Zuma's successors will need to find a new path. Ishaan Tharoor, Washington Post, "South Africa’s Zuma is out. Will things actually get better?," 15 Feb. 2018 Too often, the rise of insurgent political parties and demagogues is viewed as the source of liberalism’s problems, rather than as a symptom. Casey Newton, The Verge, "A looming strike over Project Dragonfly is putting new pressure on Google," 30 Nov. 2018 Every demagogue acts voluntarily and through choices. Laura Mcgann, Vox, "The desperate demagogue," 2 Nov. 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

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

28 May 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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Comments on demagogue

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