Meaning of “cynical” in the English Dictionary

"cynical" in British English

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uk /ˈsɪn.ɪ.kəl/ us /ˈsɪn.ɪ.kəl/ disapproving

C2 believing that people are only interested in themselves and are not sincere:

She has a pretty cynical view of men.
I've always been deeply cynical about politicians.

used to say that someone's feelings or emotions are used to your own advantage:

She works in that most cynical of industries - advertising.
He praises my cooking but it's just a cynical ploy to get me to make him dinner.

More examples

  • Many people have become cynical about the stage-managed debates between politicians which regularly appear on television.
  • 15 years in the teaching profession had left him world-weary and cynical.
  • "He's only pretending to like classical music so that Emma will go out with him." "Don't be so cynical - you don't know that."
  • I thought the actor's appeal was very moving, but my husband saw it as a cynical attempt to get publicity.
  • How did my trusting little child suddenly turn into such an angry, cynical teenager?
adverb uk /ˈsɪn.ɪ.kəl.i/ us /ˈsɪn.ɪ.kəl.i/
noun [ U ] uk /ˈsɪn.ɪ.sɪ.zəm/ us /ˈsɪn.ə.sɪ.zəm/

He's often been accused of cynicism in his attitude towards politics.

(Definition of “cynical” from the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)

"cynical" in American English

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us /ˈsɪn·ɪ·kəl/

not trusting or respecting the goodness of other people and their actions, but believing that people are interested only in themselves:

Listening to politicians for too long can make you cynical.
She’s become cynical about men.
noun [ U ] us /ˈsɪn·əˌsɪz·əm/

He’s often been accused of cynicism, but he says he’s just realistic.

(Definition of “cynical” from the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)