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  1. a person who believes that only selfishness motivates human actions and who disbelieves in or minimizes selfless acts or disinterested points of view.
  2. (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.
  3. a person who shows or expresses a bitterly or sneeringly cynical attitude.
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  1. cynical.
  2. (initial capital letter) Also Cynical. of or relating to the Cynics or their doctrines.
  3. Medicine/Medical Now Rare. resembling the actions of a snarling dog.
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Origin of cynic

1540–50; < LatinCynicus < Greek Kynikós Cynic, literally, doglike, currish, equivalent to kyn- (stem of kýōn) dog + -ikos -ic
Related formsan·ti·cyn·ic, noun, adjective
Can be confusedcynic optimist pessimist skeptic

Synonyms for cynic

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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for cynic

skeptic, doubter, pessimist, detractor, unbeliever, questioner, misanthropist, caviler, misanthrope, carper, egoist, misogynist, egotist, misogamist, mocker, scoffer, satirist

Examples from the Web for cynic

Contemporary Examples of cynic

Historical Examples of cynic

British Dictionary definitions for cynic


  1. a person who believes the worst about people or the outcome of events
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  1. a less common word for cynical
  2. astronomy of or relating to Sirius, the Dog Star
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Word Origin for cynic

C16: via Latin from Greek Kunikos, from kuōn dog


  1. a member of a sect founded by Antisthenes that scorned worldly things and held that self-control was the key to the only good
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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

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.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper