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[sin-i-kuh l] /ˈsɪn ɪ kəl/
distrusting or disparaging the motives of others; like or characteristic of a cynic.
showing contempt for accepted standards of honesty or morality by one's actions, especially by actions that exploit the scruples of others.
bitterly or sneeringly distrustful, contemptuous, or pessimistic.
(initial capital letter) cynic (def 5).
Origin of cynical
1580-90; cynic + -al1
Related forms
cynically, adverb
cynicalness, noun
anticynical, adjective
anticynically, adverb
quasi-cynical, adjective
quasi-cynically, adverb
semicynical, adjective
semicynically, adverb
supercynical, adjective
supercynically, adverb
supercynicalness, noun
uncynical, adjective
uncynically, adverb
1, 3. Cynical, pessimistic, sarcastic, satirical imply holding a low opinion of humanity. Cynical suggests a disbelief in the sincerity of human motives: cynical about honesty. Pessimistic implies a more or less habitual disposition to look on the dark side of things, and to believe that the worst will happen: pessimistic as to the future. Sarcastic refers to sneering or making cutting jibes: sarcastic about a profession of faith. Satirical suggests expressing scorn or ridicule by saying the opposite of what one means: a satirical attack on his political promises.
1, 3. optimistic. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for cynical
  • It is a voice that more cynical or exhausted ages find annoying.
  • The quote is commonly recited for its wry pragmatism and seeming cynical irreverence.
  • Such a cynical and decadent philosophy could not go unchallenged.
  • Right now it would be cynical to call them off because they are variable.
  • If anything, it makes people more cynical of the efforts of those in research medicine to actually improve the lives of patients.
  • Thanks for taking the time to write this and respond to each of the cynical idiots in this article.
  • The cynical, irritated me feels she knows the answer to these questions.
  • It would be easy to dismiss that idea as a cynical marketing ploy.
  • Most specifically, share their cynical and realistic observations with the world.
  • They may not even carry out the coup out of cynical motives.
British Dictionary definitions for cynical


distrustful or contemptuous of virtue, esp selflessness in others; believing the worst of others, esp that all acts are selfish
sarcastic; mocking
showing contempt for accepted standards of behaviour, esp of honesty or morality: the politician betrayed his promises in a cynical way
Derived Forms
cynically, adverb
cynicalness, noun
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 cynical

1580s, "resembling Cynic philosophers," from cynic + -al (1). By late 17c. the meaning had shaded into the general one of "critical, disparaging the motives of others, captious, sneering, peevish." Related: Cynically.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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