• Carmen Milligan

Wednesday Word: sycophant


[ˈsikəˌfant, ˈsikəfənt]


  1. a person who acts obsequiously toward someone important in order to gain advantage. synonyms: toady · creep · crawler · fawner · flatterer · flunkey · truckler ·


mid 16th century (denoting an informer): from French sycophante, or via Latin from Greek sukophantēs ‘informer’, from sukon ‘fig’ + phainein ‘to show’, perhaps with reference to making the insulting gesture of the ‘fig’ (sticking the thumb between two fingers) to informers.

I love, love, love this word! I don't use it as much as I could/should, because I simply forget about it. I was watching the Glen Close movie "The Wife" the other night, and her character used it. In the narrow context of its definition, it is a wonderful word.

When said, the word starts with a reptilian "sssss", releasing a small puff of air with the /k/, then baring your bottom teeth while biting to make the /f/, and finally releasing another puff of air with the ending /t/. It's speech poetry! To pause on any of these sounds would strengthen the intention behind your usage. A long /s/ would be snakelike. A long /f/ would convey disgust, and hesitation on the /t/ would give it a sense of finality, like you've had the last word.

And that word is a great word!

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