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Dec 31, 2009
This week's theme
Words that have changed with time

This week's words
beldam
prude
quantum
sycophant
meticulous
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A.Word.A.Day
with Anu Garg

sycophant

PRONUNCIATION:
(SIK-uh-fuhnt, SY-kuh-, -fant)

MEANING:
noun: A servile self-seeking person who flatters in an attempt to win favor.

ETYMOLOGY:
From Latin sycophanta (informer, slanderer), from Greek sykophantes (informer, slanderer), from sykon (fig) + phainein (to show). How did a sycophant turned from one who shows a fig, to an informer, to a flatterer? There are two explanations though both are unconfirmed. The first theory is that the word referred to someone who informed against the theft or illegal export of figs in ancient Athens; other is that it referred to one who makes a fig sign. When the word arrived in the English language its meaning changed from an informer to a flatterer.

USAGE:
"There are few models around the world of coup plotters who have succeeded as civilian administrators. This is in part because dictators invariably begin to believe the sycophants who gather around them."
The Savior Fantasy; The Washington Post; Oct 20, 1999.

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

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
Good men must not obey the laws too well. -Ralph Waldo Emerson, writer and philosopher (1803-1882)

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