Definition of cynical in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /ˈsɪnɪk(ə)l/


1Believing that people are motivated purely by self-interest; distrustful of human sincerity or integrity: he was brutally cynical and hardened to every sob story under the sun
More example sentences
  • We don't have language even to describe it to each other, so sceptical and cynical of human motivation have we become, but we all know it when we meet it and it is the greatest of riches.
  • His limited opportunities add to his bitter, cynical attitude towards life.
  • Residents will be wealthier, early retirement will be common and people will be better informed, but more cynical, distrusting and suspicious.
1.1Doubtful as to whether something will happen or whether it is worthwhile: most residents are cynical about efforts to clean mobsters out of their city
More example sentences
  • For all his talk about the power of positivity, I confess I'm cynical about whether things will get better in our lifetime.
  • He's cynical about whether the new inquiry will get closer to the truth or whether it is mere window-dressing.
  • Many are cynical about the preventative measures and question whether hand-washing can do much to limit the spread of disease.
pessimistic, negative, hard-bitten, hardened, hard, world-weary, disillusioned, disenchanted, jaundiced, sardonic, black, bleak
informal hard-boiled
1.2Contemptuous; mocking: he gave a cynical laugh
More example sentences
  • Betty is at the center of the film's assembly of cynical, contemptuous characterizations.
  • He started laughing and mocked the old man with cynical derision.
  • Kurt let out a harsh, short cynical laugh.
2Concerned only with one’s own interests and typically disregarding accepted standards in order to achieve them: a cynical manipulation of public opinion
More example sentences
  • Russians, he continued, should drop their illusions about the West and be quite pragmatic and even cynical in dealing with the West.
  • There are some who have tried to buy their peace with rather cynical deals.
  • This sudden ‘concern’ is entirely cynical and has nothing to do with defending democratic rights.

Words that rhyme with cynical

clinical, dominical, finical, Jacobinical, pinnacle, rabbinical

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: cyn|ic¦al

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.