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[sik-uh-fuh nt, -fant, sahy-kuh-] /ˈsɪk ə fənt, -ˌfænt, ˈsaɪ kə-/
a self-seeking, servile flatterer; fawning parasite.
1530-40; < Latin sȳcophanta < Greek sȳkophántēs informer, equivalent to sŷko(n) fig + phan- (stem of phaínein to show) + -tēs agentive suffix
Related forms
sycophantic, sycophantical, sycophantish, adjective
sycophantically, sycophantishly, adverb
sycophantism, noun
toady, yes man, flunky, fawner, flatterer. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for sycophants
  • The saint's refusal was a second offence in the eyes of the sycophants of the court.
  • Instead, she will cling to dogma, reinforcing her decisions with sycophants and toadies.
  • They are surrounded by sycophants and enablers who reinforce that impression.
  • Egged on by sycophants, she sent senior civil servants around the world to lobby for her nomination, unsuccessfully.
  • Vox is a rather repulsive toad of a human being, and his sycophants aren't much better.
  • His charisma attracted both starry-eyed sycophants and spiteful critics.
  • He talked to a group of sycophants who simply told him he had a great idea.
  • It is not long before dissatisfaction spreads, rivalries simmer, sycophants flourish.
  • His wealth nevertheless turns the townspeople into groveling, obsequious sycophants.
  • The sycophants around the colossus's feet speculate on his downfall while they look to their own perquisites.
British Dictionary definitions for sycophants


a person who uses flattery to win favour from individuals wielding influence; toady
Derived Forms
sycophancy, noun
Word Origin
C16: from Latin sӯcophanta, from Greek sukophantēs, literally: the person showing a fig, apparently referring to the fig sign used in making an accusation, from sukon fig + phainein to show; sense probably developed from ``accuser'' to ``informer, flatterer''
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Word Origin and History for sycophants



1530s (in Latin form sycophanta), "informer, talebearer, slanderer," from Latin sycophanta, from Greek sykophantes, originally "one who shows the fig," from sykon "fig" + phanein "to show." "Showing the fig" was a vulgar gesture made by sticking the thumb between two fingers, a display which vaguely resembles a fig, itself symbolic of a vagina (sykon also meant "vulva"). The story goes that prominent politicians in ancient Greece held aloof from such inflammatory gestures, but privately urged their followers to taunt their opponents. The sense of "mean, servile flatterer" is first recorded in English 1570s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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