What does cynical mean?

Definitions for cynical
ˈsɪn ɪ kəlcyn·i·cal

This dictionary definitions page includes all the possible meanings, example usage and translations of the word cynical.

Princeton's WordNet

  1. cynical, misanthropic, misanthropicaladjective

    believing the worst of human nature and motives; having a sneering disbelief in e.g. selflessness of others


  1. cynicaladjective

    of or relating to the belief that human actions are motivated only or primarily by base desires or selfishness.

  2. cynicaladjective

    skeptical of the integrity, sincerity, or motives of others.

  3. cynicaladjective

    bitterly or jadedly distrustful or contemptuous; mocking.

  4. cynicaladjective

    showing contempt for accepted moral standards by one's actions.

  5. cynicaladjective

    like the actions of a snarling dog.

  6. Cynicaladjective

    Of or relating to the Cynics, a sect of ancient Greek philosophers who believed virtue to be the only good and self-control to be the only means of achieving virtue.

  7. Cynicaladjective

    Concerned only with one's own interests and disregarding accepted standards to achieve them: A cynical fool

  8. Etymology: Originated 1580–90 from cynic+-al.

Samuel Johnson's Dictionary

  1. Cynical, Cynickadjective

    Having the qualities of a dog; currish; brutal; snarling; satirical.

    Etymology: ϰυνιϰος.

    He doth believe that some new fangled wit (it is his cynical phrase) will some time or other find out his art. John Wilkins.


  1. cynical

    Cynicism is an attitude characterized by a general distrust of the motives of "others". A cynic may have a general lack of faith or hope in people motivated by ambition, desire, greed, gratification, materialism, goals, and opinions that a cynic perceives as vain, unobtainable, or ultimately meaningless. The term originally derives from the ancient Greek philosophers, the Cynics, who rejected conventional goals of wealth, power, and honor. They practiced shameless nonconformity with social norms in religion, manners, housing, dress, or decency, instead advocating the pursuit of virtue in accordance with a simple and natural way of life. By the 19th century, emphasis on the ascetic ideals and the critique of current civilization based on how it might fall short of an ideal civilization or negativistic aspects of Cynic philosophy led the modern understanding of cynicism to mean a disposition of disbelief in the sincerity or goodness of human motives and actions. Modern cynicism is a distrust toward professed ethical and social values, especially when there are high expectations concerning society, institutions, and authorities that are unfulfilled. It can manifest itself as a result of frustration, disillusionment, and distrust perceived as owing to organizations, authorities, and other aspects of society. Cynicism is often confused with pessimism or nihilism, perhaps due to its distrust in others. The differences between the three is that cynicism is a distrust by prudence; while due to a sense of defeatism, pessimism is the distrust of potential success. Nihilism on its part is the general distrust cast upon the belief that anything in life (including life itself) has any valuable meaning.


  1. cynical

    Cynical is an adjective that describes an attitude or viewpoint characterized by distrust, skepticism, and a belief that human motives are primarily selfish or insincere. Cynical individuals tend to have a pessimistic or negative perception of human nature and often question the sincerity or integrity of people's actions and intentions.

Webster Dictionary

  1. Cynicaladjective

    having the qualities of a surly dog; snarling; captious; currish

  2. Cynicaladjective

    pertaining to the Dog Star; as, the cynic, or Sothic, year; cynic cycle

  3. Cynicaladjective

    belonging to the sect of philosophers called cynics; having the qualities of a cynic; pertaining to, or resembling, the doctrines of the cynics

  4. Cynicaladjective

    given to sneering at rectitude and the conduct of life by moral principles; disbelieving in the reality of any human purposes which are not suggested or directed by self-interest or self-indulgence; as, a cynical man who scoffs at pretensions of integrity; characterized by such opinions; as, cynical views of human nature

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  1. Chaldean Numerology

    The numerical value of cynical in Chaldean Numerology is: 8

  2. Pythagorean Numerology

    The numerical value of cynical in Pythagorean Numerology is: 4

Examples of cynical in a Sentence

  1. President Barack Obama:

    What I'm asking for is hard. It's easier to be cynical; to accept that change isn't possible, and politics is hopeless, and to believe that our voices and actions don't matter.

  2. Conan OBriens late-night careerO'Brien jokes:

    All I ask is one thing, and I'm asking this particularly of young people that watch : Please do not be cynical, i hate cynicism. For the record, it's my least-favorite quality — it doesn't lead anywhere. Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you're kind, amazing things will happen.

  3. Pope Francis:

    There should be no room for opportunistic and cynical efforts to gain small partial results in the short run while shifting equally significant costs and damages to future generations, civilization requires energy.

  4. Joni Mitchell, song-The Last Time I Saw Richard:

    All romantics meet the same fate someday. Cynical and drunk and boring someone in some dark cafe.

  5. Scott Long:

    It's a cynical, opportunistic kind of power play.

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Translations for cynical

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"cynical." Definitions.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2024. Web. 23 Apr. 2024. <https://www.definitions.net/definition/cynical>.

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