- The definition of a sycophant is a person who tries to gain attention by flattering wealthy or influential people.
An example of a sycophant is someone who agrees with everything his boss says and who brings his boss gifts once a month.
Origin of sycophantClassical Latin sycophanta ; from Classical Greek sykophantēs, informer, literally , maker of the sign of the fig ; from sykon, fig + phainein, to show: see fantasy
Origin of sycophantLatin s&ymacron;cophanta, informer, slanderer, from Greek sūkophantēs, informer, from sūkon phainein, to show a fig (perhaps originally said of denouncers of theft or exportation of figs or of persons making a lascivious gesture resembling a fig) : sūkon, fig + phainein, to show; see bhā-1 in Indo-European roots.
- syc′o·phan′tic , syc′o·phan′ti·cal
(third-person singular simple present sycophants, present participle sycophanting, simple past and past participle sycophanted)
First attested in 1537. From Latin sȳcophanta (“informer, trickster”), from Ancient Greek συκοφάντης (sukophantēs), itself from σῦκον (sukon, “fig”) + φαίνω (phainō, “I show, demonstrate”). The gesture of "showing the fig" was a vulgar one, which was made by sticking the thumb between two fingers, a display which vaguely resembles a fig, which is itself symbolic of a σῦκον (sukon), which also meant vulva. The story behind this etymology is that politicians in ancient Greece steered clear of displaying that vulgar gesture, but urged their followers sub rosa to taunt their opponents by using it.