Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A servile self-seeker who attempts to win favor by flattering influential people.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. One who uses compliments to gain self-serving favor or advantage from another.
  • n. One who seeks to gain through the powerful and influential.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. An informer; a talebearer.
  • n. A base parasite; a mean or servile flatterer; especially, a flatterer of princes and great men.
  • transitive v. To inform against; hence, to calumniate.
  • transitive v. To play the sycophant toward; to flatter obsequiously.
  • intransitive v. To play the sycophant.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A tale-bearer or informer in general.
  • n. A parasite; a mean flatterer; especially, a flatterer of princes and great men.
  • n. Synonyms Parasite, Sycophant (see parasite), fawner, toady, toad-eater, flunkey.
  • Parasitical; servile; obsequious; sycophantic.
  • To give information about, or tell tales of, in order to gain favor; calumniate.
  • To play the sycophant toward; flatter meanly and officiously.
  • To play the sycophant.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

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

Etymologies

Latin sȳcophanta, 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.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
First attested in 1537. From Latin sȳcophanta ("informer, trickster"), from Ancient Greek συκοφάντης (sukophantēs), itself from σῦκον (sukon, "fig") + φαίνω (phainō, "I show, demonstrate"). The gesture of "showing the fig" was a vulgar one, which was made by sticking the thumb between two fingers, a display which vaguely resembles a fig, which is itself symbolic of a (sykon 'vagina' also meant vulva). The story behind this etymology is that politicians in ancient Greece steered clear of displaying that vulgar gesture, but urged their followers sub rosa to taunt their opponents by using it. (Wiktionary)

Examples

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