distrusting or disparaging the motives of others; like or characteristic of a .
showing contempt for accepted standards of honesty or morality by one’s actions, especially by actions that exploit the scruples of others.
bitterly or sneeringly distrustful, contemptuous, or pessimistic.
(initial capital letter) (def 5).
Contemporary Examples

He may just be cynical enough to go along, if he believes that Obama is serious—that is, a little dangerous.
The Obama Doctrine on Syria: Re-Opening the Diplomatic Window Bernard Avishai September 2, 2013

Why follow the cynical politics of the past that led us over the cliff in the first place?
A Manifesto for Young Voters Mark McKinnon, Rob Shepardson May 3, 2009

But this cynical take is too glib and sweeping to explain everything.
Why Some Americans Are More Equal Than Others Jedediah Purdy September 1, 2014

While some may see a cynical feint—float in the Dead Sea and watch the Jewish vote pour in!
Carly’s Schlep to Israel Samuel P. Jacobs September 7, 2010

But the high-end world of private equity and hedge funds is a cynical one.
The Insider-Trading Cloud Hanging Over SAC Capital’s Steven A. Cohen Daniel Gross November 26, 2012

Historical Examples

When he is listening, I say all the horrid, cynical, heartless things I can think of.
The Ordeal of Elizabeth Elizabeth Von Arnim

But Robin didn’t laugh; his eyes, morose and cynical, held her there.
Life and Death of Harriett Frean May Sinclair

The broad and cynical buffoonery of Scarron’s burlesques had always shocked his severe and pure taste.
A Popular History of France From The Earliest Times Francois Pierre Guillaume Guizot

But theft, cynical theft for the purpose of profit and enjoyment, is beyond me!
The Three Cities Trilogy, Complete Emile Zola

I remembered how cynical she had always been as to the merits of her own sex.
The First Violin Jessie Fothergill

distrustful or contemptuous of virtue, esp selflessness in others; believing the worst of others, esp that all acts are selfish
sarcastic; mocking
showing contempt for accepted standards of behaviour, esp of honesty or morality: the politician betrayed his promises in a cynical way

1580s, “resembling Cynic philosophers,” from cynic + -al (1). By late 17c. the meaning had shaded into the general one of “critical, disparaging the motives of others, captious, sneering, peevish.” Related: Cynically.


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