A person who believes all
people are motivated by selfishness.
A person whose outlook is
scornfully and often habitually negative.
member of a sect of ancient Greek philosophers who believed
virtue to be the only good and self-control to be the only
means of achieving virtue.
A cynic may be pardoned for thinking
that this is a dog's life. The Greek word kunikos, from
which cynic comes, was originally an adjective meaning "doglike,"
from kuon, "dog." The word was probably applied
to the Cynic philosophers because of the nickname kuon given to Diogenes of Sinope, the prototypical Cynic. He is reported
to have been seen barking in public, urinating on the leg of a
table, and masturbating on the street.
The first use of the word recorded
in English, in a work published from 1547 to 1564, is in the plural
for members of this philosophical sect. In 1596 we find the first
instance of cynic meaning "faultfinder", a
sense that was to develop into our modern sense. The meaning "faultfinder"
came naturally from the behavior of countless Cynics who in their
pursuit of virtue pointed out the flaws in others. Such faultfinding
could lead quite naturally to the belief associated with cynics
of today that selfishness determines human behavior.