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[sin-ik] /ˈsɪn ɪk/
a person who believes that only selfishness motivates human actions and who disbelieves in or minimizes selfless acts or disinterested points of view.
(initial capital letter) one of a sect of Greek philosophers, 4th century b.c., who advocated the doctrines that virtue is the only good, that the essence of virtue is self-control, and that surrender to any external influence is beneath human dignity.
a person who shows or expresses a bitterly or sneeringly cynical attitude.
(initial capital letter). Also, Cynical. of or relating to the Cynics or their doctrines.
Medicine/Medical Now Rare. resembling the actions of a snarling dog.
Origin of cynic
1540-50; < Latin Cynicus < Greek Kynikós Cynic, literally, doglike, currish, equivalent to kyn- (stem of kýōn) dog + -ikos - ic
Related forms
anticynic, noun, adjective
Can be confused
1, 3. skeptic, pessimist, misanthrope. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for cynic
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • He was not a cynic, because he believed in action; but his faith in the disinterested simplicity of mankind was not strong.

    Cecilia F. Marion Crawford
  • Hence the fact, noted by a cynic, that it is the Mollycoddle who cuckolds the Red-blood.

    Appearances Goldsworthy Lowes Dickinson
  • When they came out Alcibiades put on the cynic's rags, leaving his own gay and costly apparel for the cynic.

    Practical Ethics William DeWitt Hyde
  • He rarely smiled, and when he did it was the smile of the cynic and misanthrope.

    The Clansman Thomas Dixon
  • He is a cynic in his love affairs, and indifferent in his friendships.

    Fathers and Children Ivan Sergeevich Turgenev
British Dictionary definitions for cynic


a person who believes the worst about people or the outcome of events
a less common word for cynical
(astronomy) of or relating to Sirius, the Dog Star
Word Origin
C16: via Latin from Greek Kunikos, from kuōn dog


a member of a sect founded by Antisthenes that scorned worldly things and held that self-control was the key to the only good
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for cynic

mid-16c., in reference to the ancient philosophy, from Greek kynikos "a follower of Antisthenes," literally "dog-like," from kyon (genitive kynos) "dog" (see canine). Supposedly from the sneering sarcasm of the philosophers, but more likely from Kynosarge "Gray Dog," name of the gymnasium outside ancient Athens (for the use of those who were not pure Athenians) where the founder, Antisthenes (a pupil of Socrates), taught. Diogenes was the most famous. Popular association even in ancient times was "dog-like" (Lucian has kyniskos "a little cynic," literally "puppy"). Meaning "sneering sarcastic person" is from 1590s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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