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

First recorded in 1580–90; cynic + -al1
Related formscyn·i·cal·ly, adverbcyn·i·cal·ness, nounan·ti·cyn·i·cal, adjectivean·ti·cyn·i·cal·ly, adverbqua·si-cyn·i·cal, adjectivequa·si-cyn·i·cal·ly, adverbsem·i·cyn·i·cal, adjectivesem·i·cyn·i·cal·ly, adverbsu·per·cyn·i·cal, adjectivesu·per·cyn·i·cal·ly, adverbsu·per·cyn·i·cal·ness, nounun·cyn·i·cal, adjectiveun·cyn·i·cal·ly, adverb

Synonym study

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.

Antonyms for cynical

1, 3. optimistic. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for cynically

Contemporary Examples of cynically

Historical Examples of cynically

  • "That won't matter," said Binet, cynically, and explained himself.


    Rafael Sabatini

  • Not a few of the fabliaux are cynically gross—ribald but not voluptuous.

  • "She'll probably take the reins," said Sir Thorald, cynically.


    Robert W. Chambers

  • "People like us do not keep our promises," answered La Roulante, cynically.

  • "You can't keep him there long," Tenison had cynically warned him.

    Laramie Holds the Range

    Frank H. Spearman

British Dictionary definitions for cynically



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 moralitythe politician betrayed his promises in a cynical way
Derived Formscynically, adverbcynicalness, 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

Word Origin and History for cynically



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