Definition of cynic in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /ˈsinik/


1A person who believes that people are motivated purely by self-interest rather than acting for honorable or unselfish reasons: some cynics thought that the controversy was all a publicity stunt
More example sentences
  • Modern cynics would have us believe that this turn of events was about something other than freedom.
  • It was suggested by some cynics that the real reason for the aggressive campaign was an attempt to gain a greater market share amongst public sector workers.
  • If the cynics are to be believed, the attacks were stage-managed for external consumption.
1.1A person who questions whether something will happen or whether it is worthwhile: the cynics were silenced when the factory opened
More example sentences
  • You don't have to be much of a cynic to question whether loggers will really be held to their promises.
  • For two seasons, the football team have defied the cynics and their critics to regain and retain their status at the top of the league.
  • It was inevitable that the critical and commercial success of the film would rile the cynics.
skeptic, doubter, doubting Thomas;
pessimist, prophet of doom, doomsayer, Cassandra, Chicken Little
2 (Cynic) A member of a school of ancient Greek philosophers founded by Antisthenes, marked by an ostentatious contempt for ease and pleasure. The movement flourished in the 3rd century bc and revived in the 1st century ad.
Example sentences
  • The most extensive ancient report about the Cynics is found in Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Philosophers, Book 6, although he is not a reliable source.
  • The allegory was used by the cynic Antisthenes, a contemporary of Plato, and Diogenes the Cynic.
  • Cynicism was originally the philosophy of a group of ancient Greeks called the Cynics, founded by Antisthenes.


Mid 16th century (sense 2): from Latin cynicus, from Greek kunikos; probably originally from Kunosarges, the name of a gymnasium where Antisthenes taught, but popularly taken to mean 'doglike, churlish', kuōn, kun- 'dog' becoming a nickname for a Cynic.

  • The original Cynics were members of a school of ancient Greek philosophers who displayed a contempt for wealth, luxury, and pleasure, believing that such things distracted a person from the quest for self-knowledge. The word comes from Greek kunikos. The Greek word probably derives from Kunosarges, the name of the school where one of their founders, Antisthenes, taught. This is more likely than the traditional story that the word comes from the Greek word for dog, kuōn, and so means ‘doglike or churlish’. See also epicure, stoic

Words that rhyme with cynic

actinic, clinic, Finnic, Jacobinic, rabbinic

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: cyn·ic

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.