Definition of demagogue in English:



  • 1A political leader who seeks support by appealing to popular desires and prejudices rather than by using rational argument.

    • ‘Secondly, the continuing decline in living standards has led to a level of desperation and social degradation that provides a fruitful basis for the emergence of right-wing demagogues.’
    • ‘Its chief glories are the demagogue, the military bully, and the spreaders of libels and false history.’
    • ‘It is time to oppose the racist demagogues and unite the defence of foreign workers and refugees with the campaign against unemployment, welfare cuts and attacks on basic rights.’
    • ‘Furthermore it allows the electorate to participate more fully in national matters making politicians more experts in government than demagogues.’
    • ‘He is a powerful demagogue and a high ranking political propagandist for the Republican party.’
    • ‘What do these reformist demagogues propose to the millions of minimum-wage workers and the millions of unemployed?’
    • ‘‘Lies have always been regarded as necessary and justifiable tools not only of the politician's or the demagogue's but also of the statesman's trade,’ he claimed.’
    • ‘Faced by a wave of support for anti-immigrant demagogues, there is a danger that governments will adopt some of their attitudes.’
    • ‘I'm loathe to give support to reform which would bring such demagogues into parliamentary politics, let alone government.’
    • ‘Although the political scene continues to be dominated by nationalist demagogues, there are signs that a significant section of voters feel disenfranchised as a result.’
    • ‘But that a fascist demagogue could receive considerable support among workers is cause for great concern.’
    • ‘A return to national self-determination, he believes, would take the feet from under the new nationalist demagogues and bolster democratic politics in the historic nations of Europe.’
    • ‘While his friends admired him as a nationalist leader, his enemies simply considered him a communist, a demagogue, and a dangerous man.’
    • ‘Moreover, the circus promises the appearance of a mysterious Prince, a demagogue who is plotting untold evil.’
    • ‘He has still not been allowed back but proves a democrat rather than a demagogue in person.’
    • ‘Faced with this situation, it is increasingly the case that it is not only the most extreme right-wing demagogues who are playing the nationalist card.’
    • ‘In an attempt to divert the resulting social unrest, Stalinist bureaucrats and communalist demagogues fomented nationalist sentiments while seeking patrons among the major powers.’
    • ‘Discontent fuelled by the pro-business policies of social democratic governments has given a boost to right-wing demagogues in several European countries.’
    • ‘In so doing, she claims, they fall into ‘the logic of terrorists, demagogues, and other absolutists who perceive no moral dilemmas: For them, the right path is always clear.’’
    • ‘Sadly, but predictably, the effort to re-enfranchise people with felony convictions has come under attack from demagogues claiming a cynical political motive for the effort.’
    rabble-rouser, political agitator, agitator, soapbox orator, firebrand
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    1. 1.1 (in ancient Greece and Rome) a leader or orator who espoused the cause of the common people.
      • ‘Tradition condemned the demagogues as tyrants who manipulated public opinion for their own selfish ends.’
      • ‘The fear was that a charismatic leader could use the office of tribune, with its base of power in the common citizen, to become a demagogue.’
      • ‘For historians of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the case against Athenian democracy was linked directly to the case against the rhetorical practices of the Athenian demagogues.’
      • ‘School children are taught that democracy in ancient Greece failed because demagogues whipped up mobs.’
      • ‘Socrates was one of the most critical opponents of the demagogues.’
      • ‘The masses were, in brief, shortsighted, selfish and fickle, an easy prey to unscrupulous orators who came to be known as demagogues.’


Mid 17th century: from Greek dēmagōgos, from dēmos ‘the people’ + agōgos ‘leading’ (from agein ‘to lead’).