He could be petty and mean-spirited to subordinates, ingratiating and sycophantic to bosses and celebrities.
A comic imitation of a sycophantic head waiter took him over.
The companies' management teams, meanwhile, were becoming inbred and sycophantic.
It was clearly meant to be a sycophantic gesture, but the jape backfired like a blocked Victorian shotgun.
That was said not vainly or presumptuously, but in reproof of sycophantic courtiers.
It is not pity—whining, sycophantic pity—alone that will do them good.
The men who praised Cesare, the historian tells us, were sycophantic courtiers.
The world, with its sycophantic smile, now flatters, where it once frowned.
His late tour of the island was a triumphal procession, amid the sycophantic greetings of oppressors.
Guests, sycophantic people of all sorts were taken to consider it.
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.