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Mar 8, 2011
This week's theme
Words with hidden animals

This week's words
corniche
cynic
aegis
pedigree
gazette

Diogenes of Sinope
Diogenes of Sinope
Art: Jean-Léon Gérôme (1860)

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A.Word.A.Day
with Anu Garg

cynic

PRONUNCIATION:
(SIN-ik)

MEANING:
noun:
1. One who believes people are motivated by self-interest only.
2. A person with a negative outlook, one disposed to find fault.

ETYMOLOGY:
From Latin cynicus, from Greek kynikos (like a dog), from kyon (dog). Ultimately from the Indo-European root kwon- (dog), which is also the source of canine, chenille (from French chenille: caterpillar, literally, little dog), kennel, canary, hound, dachshund, corgi, and cynosure. Earliest documented use: 1547.

NOTES:
Cynics was the name given to the ancient Greek philosophers who believed in self-control, austerity, and moral virtue. The movement was founded by Antisthenes (c. 444-365 BCE) and perfected by Diogenes (c. 412-323 BCE). It's not clear why they were labeled cynics or dog-like, but as often happens with such epithets, they appropriated it. Some believe the name was given because Antisthenes taught in a gymnasium nicknamed White Dog, but it's more likely that they were given the insulting moniker for their rejection of society's conventions.

USAGE:
"The cynic's mantra that they [the MPs] are all bad is nonsense."
The Great Shaming of Parliament; The Economist (London, UK); May 14, 2009.

See more usage examples of cynic in Vocabulary.com's dictionary.

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
All men whilst they are awake are in one common world: but each of them, when he is asleep, is in a world of his own. -Plutarch, biographer (c. 46-120)

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