1. One who believes people are motivated by self-interest only.
2. A person with a negative outlook, one disposed to find fault.
From Latin cynicus, from Greek kynikos (like a dog), from kyon (dog). Ultimately from the Indo-European root kwon- (dog), which is also the source of canine, chenille (from French chenille: caterpillar, literally, little dog), kennel, canary, hound, dachshund, corgi, and cynosure. Earliest documented use: 1547.
Cynics was the name given to the ancient Greek philosophers who believed in self-control, austerity, and moral virtue. The movement was founded by Antisthenes (c. 444-365 BCE) and perfected by Diogenes (c. 412-323 BCE). It’s not clear why they were labeled cynics or dog-like, but as often happens with such epithets, they appropriated it. Some believe the name was given because Antisthenes taught in a gymnasium nicknamed White Dog, but it’s more likely that they were given the insulting moniker for their rejection of society’s conventions.
“The cynic’s mantra that they [the MPs] are all bad is nonsense.”
The Great Shaming of Parliament; The Economist (London, UK); May 14, 2009.
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