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See also: Cynical



Originated 1580–90 from cynic +‎ -al.



cynical (comparative more cynical, superlative most cynical)

  1. Of or relating to the belief that human actions are motivated only or primarily by base desires or selfishness.
    • 1755, Samuel Johnson, To the Earl of Chesterfield:
      I hope it is no very cynical asperity not to confess obligations where no benefit has been received.
  2. Skeptical of the integrity, sincerity, or motives of others.
  3. Bitterly or jadedly distrustful or contemptuous; mocking.
    • 1945 August 17, George Orwell [pseudonym; Eric Arthur Blair], chapter 1, in Animal Farm [], London: Secker & Warburg, →OCLC:
      He seldom talked, and when he did, it was usually to make some cynical remark-for instance, he would say that God had given him a tail to keep the flies off, but that he would sooner have had no tail and no flies.
  4. Showing contempt for accepted moral standards by one's actions.
    • 1907 August, Robert W[illiam] Chambers, chapter X, in The Younger Set, New York, N.Y.: D. Appleton & Company, →OCLC:
      When he, at Neergard's cynical suggestion, had consented to exploit his own club [] and had consented to resign from it to do so, he had every reason to believe that Neergard meant to either mulct them heavily or buy them out. In either case, having been useful to Neergard, his profits from the transaction would have been considerable.
  5. (medicine, rare) Like the actions of a snarling dog, especially in reference to facial nerve paralysis.
    • 1818, Matthieu Joseph Bonaventure Orfila, A Treatise on Mineral, Vegetable, and Animal Poisons, Considered as to their Relations with Physiology, Pathology, and Medical Jurisprudence:
      Towards noon, he experienced convulsive movements; the extremities became stiff, the pulse extremely small, and he died during an attack of cynical spasm.
    • 1857, New Orleans Medical News and Hospital Gazette - Volume 3, page 278:
      On the contrary, in woman, the cynical spasm, though felt with as much, or even more violence than the other sex, is not followed with the same deleterious effects, and may be repeated much oftener without any unfavorable consequences.
    • 1986, Giuseppe Roccatagliata, A History of Ancient Psychiatry, page 125:
      Demetrius Attalicus studied the symptomatologies due to strictura cerebri, characterized by a cynical spasm of the facial nerve.
    • 2009, Hilary Evans, Robert E. Bartholomew, Outbreak!: The Encyclopedia of Extraordinary Social Behavior, →ISBN:
      Something of the same sort happened at Hensberg, Germany, where the nuns were afflicted and committed the sin they called “the silent sin.” In their ecstasies, their convulsions were very violent and interspersed with “cynical movements of the pelvis.”