Definition of cynical in English:



  • 1Believing that people are motivated purely by self-interest; distrustful of human sincerity or integrity.

    ‘he was brutally cynical and hardened to every sob story under the sun’
    • ‘Residents will be wealthier, early retirement will be common and people will be better informed, but more cynical, distrusting and suspicious.’
    • ‘Such cynical micro-analysts of human behaviour must suffer when the ravenous critic inevitably turns inward.’
    • ‘Glass concedes it is harder not to become more cynical about the game as he gets older.’
    • ‘A lot of people are cynical and believe it's a money-making exercise, but it's not.’
    • ‘Of course, I have always been cynical of any reporting since everyone has a vested interest in something.’
    • ‘Australians are very cynical about the political process, and the extent to which secrecy and falsehood are used to justify policy decisions.’
    • ‘If I was cynical I would believe that he was trying to frighten us into compliance with his own authoritarian, dictatorial agenda.’
    • ‘Outwardly tough, aloof and cynical, she does a good deal of nail-chewing and fiddling with a cigarette as she decides whether Jack can be trusted.’
    • ‘I confess to a somewhat more cynical view of human nature than Mr. Wilkinson.’
    • ‘I read the rest of this report, looking at why we're increasingly cynical about elections and governments.’
    • ‘We don't have language even to describe it to each other, so sceptical and cynical of human motivation have we become, but we all know it when we meet it and it is the greatest of riches.’
    • ‘Americans tend to be pretty cynical about politicians and think corruption is widespread.’
    • ‘It's kind of sad that people are so skeptical and cynical of human decency and if they aren't, that they, at the least, don't believe in the ideal of it.’
    • ‘One cynical commentator dismissed his promises on health and education as ‘not worth the paper they are printed on’.’
    • ‘Many are cynical about democracy - they say it's a scam, and that the real decisions aren't taken in democratic institutions.’
    • ‘I've had a cynical attitude to relationships for 10 years.’
    • ‘At a time when the public is growing increasingly cynical about politics and politicians, all parties struggle for issues that allow them to take the moral high ground.’
    • ‘His limited opportunities add to his bitter, cynical attitude towards life.’
    • ‘Ranald observed that Claudio progresses from a cynical attitude toward marriage to an appreciation of its worth.’
    • ‘Is it cynical to believe that it was a political gesture and that the minister wanted the credit for driving down the oil price?’
    bitter, resentful, soured, distorted, disenchanted, disillusioned, disappointed, pessimistic, sceptical, distrustful, suspicious, misanthropic
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    1. 1.1Doubtful as to whether something will happen or whether it is worthwhile.
      ‘most residents are cynical about efforts to clean mobsters out of their city’
      • ‘They're quite cynical about some of this new technology.’
      • ‘I wasn't as cynical about being able to influence political decisions as I am now.’
      • ‘For all his talk about the power of positivity, I confess I'm cynical about whether things will get better in our lifetime.’
      • ‘He's cynical about whether the new inquiry will get closer to the truth or whether it is mere window-dressing.’
      • ‘Johnson smirked in a manner that's typical of a player who's cynical and distrustful of a new head coach.’
      • ‘When you're younger, you're less cynical; you believe love will be forever.’
      • ‘As you know, I've been getting pretty cynical about my job over the last 6 months, although at the end of the day I wouldn't trade it in for another one.’
      • ‘But it wasn't ever really about meeting people; I've always been pretty cynical about the prospects of that.’
      • ‘Many are cynical about the preventative measures and question whether hand-washing can do much to limit the spread of disease.’
      • ‘Mittal is equally cynical about a corporate biotech revolution.’
      sceptical, doubtful, distrustful, suspicious, disbelieving, unbelieving, scoffing, doubting, incredulous
      pessimistic, negative, hard-bitten, hardened, hard, world-weary, disillusioned, disenchanted, jaundiced, sardonic, black, bleak
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    2. 1.2Contemptuous; mocking.
      ‘he gave a cynical laugh’
      • ‘Kitsch, I decided, is art that bears a cynical or dismissive relation to life.’
      • ‘Betty is at the center of the film's assembly of cynical, contemptuous characterizations.’
      • ‘The surprising thing is that a declaration of this kind from Singleton is no longer dismissed with a cynical laugh.’
      • ‘The event is not coldly cynical or sneering, but humorous and engaging.’
      • ‘Many of the young people are cynical, even derisive, about their religion.’
      • ‘He started laughing and mocked the old man with cynical derision.’
      • ‘Seamus was already out of the car and, once free of it, resumed his cynical sneer.’
      • ‘His hands clenched tightly, yet a soft cynical laugh escaped from his lips.’
      • ‘He laughed, a cynical heartless sort of laugh and then squinted at me.’
      • ‘It's perhaps no surprise that the project has already attracted its share of cynical derision.’
      • ‘Mark laughed, a strangely cynical laugh from one so young.’
      • ‘Kurt let out a harsh, short cynical laugh.’
      • ‘I'm cynical and sarcastic because that's often the safest way to go in many situations.’
      • ‘He's trying to do away with the cynical sneer and make a genuine film with heartfelt emotion.’
      • ‘She is so sarcastic and cynical that I am happy to take the smile off her face.’
      • ‘Cursing under his breath he aimed and missed, prompting a cynical laugh from Simon.’
      • ‘People tend to be cynical and derisive towards romantic comedies.’
      • ‘As a protagonist, she is witty, humorously cynical, and completely human.’
      • ‘Even Sarah, usually caustic and cynical, had to admit that Josh really did look happy.’
      • ‘Sometimes she gave insightful and wonderful advice and at other times she used her cynical charm to make him laugh till his sides hurt.’
      mocking, satirical
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  • 2Concerned only with one's own interests and typically disregarding accepted standards in order to achieve them.

    ‘a cynical manipulation of public opinion’
    • ‘This exercise tells us nothing about their ability to improve the lot of the subsistence farmer and everything about their lack of corporate integrity and cynical opportunism.’
    • ‘This light-minded and cynical attitude of the ruling elite towards its own legal norms is an international phenomenon.’
    • ‘I am not suggesting that his apology was cynical or purely tactical.’
    • ‘The thoughtless and cynical attitude displayed by the ruling elite regarding its own legal norms is an international phenomenon.’
    • ‘There is no doubt that the protest against the concert was a cynical ploy aimed at trying to revive the party's sagging fortunes.’
    • ‘The accomplice to cynical, self-interested Western governments here are TV networks, who crave conflict to boost ratings.’
    • ‘There are some who have tried to buy their peace with rather cynical deals.’
    • ‘Whether the government's motivations are cynical or sincere makes no difference to the way its advice is interpreted.’
    • ‘He had reason to believe his cynical tactics would work.’
    • ‘This sudden shift in the focus of American politics should not be dismissed merely as a cynical election gimmick.’
    • ‘What sort of cynical human being would go into something as important as marriage simply because she was entering politics?’
    • ‘Was the magazine acting in the general interest or merely indulging in a cynical attempt to increase its circulation?’
    • ‘The government's decision is a cynical manipulation of policy purely for election purposes.’
    • ‘This sudden ‘concern’ is entirely cynical and has nothing to do with defending democratic rights.’
    • ‘The reaction of the so-called French left to the first revelations exposes its cynical and self-serving attitude.’
    • ‘The newspaper's sudden interest in the anti-war movement is cynical and self-serving.’
    • ‘Even by the double-dealing standards of international diplomacy this is a breathtakingly cynical bargain.’
    • ‘Russians, he continued, should drop their illusions about the West and be quite pragmatic and even cynical in dealing with the West.’
    • ‘Their self-obsession is matched only by their cynical contempt and disregard for anyone who is not part of their world.’
    • ‘They get away with it because their opponents are, in fact, generally cynical compromisers or self-interest business boys.’