[ sik-uh-fuhnt, -fant, sahy-kuh- ]
/ ˈsɪk ə fənt, -ˌfænt, ˈsaɪ kə- /


a self-seeking, servile flatterer; fawning parasite.

Origin of sycophant

1530–40; < Latin sȳcophanta < Greek sȳkophántēs informer, equivalent to sŷko(n) fig + phan- (stem of phaínein to show) + -tēs agentive suffix
Related formssyc·o·phan·tic, syc·o·phan·ti·cal, syc·o·phant·ish, adjectivesyc·o·phan·ti·cal·ly, syc·o·phant·ish·ly, adverbsyc·o·phant·ism, noun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for sycophant

British Dictionary definitions for sycophant


/ (ˈsɪkəfənt) /


a person who uses flattery to win favour from individuals wielding influence; toady
Derived Formssycophancy, noun

Word Origin for sycophant

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 Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for sycophant



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