A Word A Day : Sycophant

Saturday, 19th January 2008 : Today's Word is ...


( Noun )

Pronunciation : síko-fent

1. a servile or obsequious person who flatters somebody powerful for personal gain

2. a person who tries to please someone in order to gain a personal advantage

3. a person who uses flattery


Latin s[ymacr]cophanta, informer, slanderer, from Greek sūkophantēs, informer, from sūkon phainein, to show a fig (probably originally said of denouncers of theft or exportation of figs) : sūkon, fig - phainein, to show


adulator, apple polisher, back scratcher, backslapper, bootlick, bootlicker, brownie, brownnoser, crawler, cringer, doormat, fan, fawner, flatterer, flunky, footlicker, glad-hander, gofer, groupie, groveler, handshaker, hanger-on, lackey, lap-dog, lickspittle, minion, parasite, politician, puppet, slave, sniveler, spaniel, sponger, stooge, toadeater, toady, truckler, water boy, yes-man, courtier


arrogant, authoritative, domineering, forthright, cynic, disbeliever


1537 (in Latin form sycophanta), informer, talebearer, slanderer : from Greek sykophantes, originally one who shows the fig, from sykon fig + phanein to show. Showing the fig was a vulgar gesture made by sticking the thumb between two fingers, a display which vaguely resembles a fig, itself symbolic of a cunt (sykon also meant vulva). The story goes that prominent politicians in ancient Greece held aloof from such inflammatory gestures, but privately urged their followers to taunt their opponents. The sense of mean, servile flatterer is first recorded in England 1575.

Contextual Examples:

• The billionaire refused to be surrounded by sycophants.

• The French class seemed to be full of sycophants. The students were always bringing apples to the teacher and telling her how nice she looked.

• The exasperated boss finally fired his sycophantic secretary because he couldn't stand being around someone who never had anything nasty to say.

• A sycophant is sycophantic.

Related Words:

Sycophantic : Adjective

Sycophantical : Adjective

Sycophantish : Adjective

Sycophantically : Adverb

Sycophantishly : Adverb

Sycophantism : Noun

Sycophancy : Noun

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