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sycophant

Definition from Dictionary, a free dictionary
Man's love is of man's life a part; it is a woman's whole existence. In her first passion, a woman loves her lover, in all the others all she loves is love.
Lord Byron
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English

Etymology

First attested in 1537. From [[w:Template:lang:la language|Template:lang:la]][[Category:Template:lang:la derivations]] sȳcophanta (informer, trickster) from Ancient Greek συκοφάντης (sukophantēs) 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 cunt (sykon 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.

Pronunciation

Noun

Singular
sycophant

Plural
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sycophant ({{{1}}})
  1. One who uses compliments to gain self-serving favor or advantage from another.
  2. One who seeks to gain through the powerful and influential.

Synonyms

Translations

Quotations

1775 1787 1841 1927
ME: [[{{{enm}}}]] « 15th c. 16th c. 17th c. 18th c. 19th c. 20th c. 21st c.
  • 1775John Adams, Novanglus Essays, No. 3
    This language, “the imperial crown of Great Britain,” is not the style of the common law, but of court sycophants.
  • 1787Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 71
    They know from experience that they sometimes err; and the wonder is that they so seldom err as they do, beset, as they continually are, by the wiles of parasites and sycophants, by the snares of the ambitious, the avaricious, the desperate, by the artifices of men who possess their confidence more than they deserve it, and of those who seek to possess rather than to deserve it.
  • 1841Charles Dickens, Barnaby Rudge, Ch. 43
    this man, who has crawled and crept through life, wounding the hands he licked, and biting those he fawned upon: this sycophant, who never knew what honour, truth, or courage meant...
  • 1927-29Mahatma Gandhi, An Autobiography or The Story of my Experiments with Truth, Part II, Preparing for South Africa, translated 1940 by Mahadev Desai
    Princes were always at the mercy of others and ready to lend their ears to sycophants.

Derived terms

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