An example of a cynic is someone who thinks that people only volunteer so that they can receive a reward at the end.
- [C-] a member of a school of ancient Greek philosophers who held virtue to be the only good and stressed independence from worldly needs and pleasures: they became critical of the rest of society and its material interests
- a cynical person
Origin of cynicClassical Latin Cynicus from Classical Greek kynikos, literally , doglike, as if from ky?n, dog (see hound), nickname of Diogenes, but probably in allusion to the Kynosarges, a gymnasium where the Cynics taught ( from ky?n + argos, literally , white dog, so named after an animal in a myth concerning Hercules, to whom the gymnasium was sacred)
- A person who believes all people are motivated by selfishness.
- A person whose outlook is scornfully and habitually negative.
- Cynic A member of 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.
- Cynic Of or relating to the Cynics or their beliefs.
Origin of cynicLatin cynicus Cynic philosopher from Greek kunikos from kuōn kun- dog ; see kwon- in Indo-European roots.Word History: The Greek word kunikos, from which cynic comes, was originally an adjective meaning “doglike,” from kuōn, “dog.” The use of the word kunikos to designate the Cynic philosophers may make reference to the Kunosarges, an athletic training area where Antisthenes, a pupil of Socrates, is said to have taught the foundations of Cynic philosophy: that virtue, rather than pleasure, is the only good, and that virtue can be attained only through rigorous self-control. Alternatively, the designation kunikos may make reference to Antisthenes' most famous student, Diogenes of Sinope, whom the people of Athens nicknamed ho kuōn, “the dog.” Diogenes himself seems to have accepted this nickname as an apt description of the life he tried to lead, stripped of all elements of civilization and social convention that he considered superfluous and detrimental to virtue. Diogenes lived without shame out of an old wine jar in the public spaces of Athens and went barefoot in the snow to inure himself to cold, all the while reproaching the citizens of Athens for their addiction to worthless pleasures and luxuries. Even Alexander the Great admired Diogenes' determination and powers of self-denial in the pursuit of virtue. Once, when Diogenes was sunning himself outside, Alexander came up and stood over him. “Ask me any favor you wish,” Alexander said. “Stand out of the sun,” Diogenes replied. According to another anecdote, diners made fun of Diogenes at a banquet by throwing bones at him like a dog, and he responded by urinating on them. Tales like these have undoubtedly influenced the development of the meaning of the word cynic in English. When Cynic first appeared in English in the 1500s, it referred to the Cynic philosophers, but cynic and cynical were soon applied to anyone who finds fault in others in a contemptuous or sneering way. Eventually, cynic came to mean “one who believes selfishness determines human behavior”—very far from an accurate description of the ancient Cynic philosophers practicing asceticism and poverty and occasionally trying to shock their fellow citizens into virtue.
(comparative more cynic, superlative most cynic)
- cynical (in all senses)
- (not comparable) Relating to the Dog Star.
- the cynic, or Sothic, year; cynic cycle
From Middle English cynike, cynicke, from Middle French cinicque, from Latin cynicus, from Ancient Greek κυνικός (kynikós), originally derived from the portico in Athens called Κυνόσαργες (Kunosarges), the earliest home of the Cynic school, later reinterpreted as a derivation of κύων (kúōn, “dog”), in a contemptuous allusion to the uncouth and aggressive manners adopted by the members of the school.
- Of or relating to the Cynics.
The word may have first been applied to Cynics because of the nickname κύων kuōn (dog) given to Diogenes of Sinope, the prototypical Cynic.