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Sycophancy means:[1]

  1. Obsequious flattery; servility.
  2. False accusation; calumniation; talebearing.
  3. The character or characteristic of a sycophant.

Alternative phrases are often used such as:


The Greek for sycophant is συκοφάντης (sykophántēs). It suggests someone who brings all kinds of charges and proves none, according to a client of Demosthenes.[2] A client of Lysias adds the perspective of blackmail: "It is their practice to bring charges even against those who have done no wrong. For from these they would gain most profit." [3] In this context, the word entails false accusation, malicious prosecution, and abuse of legal process for mischievous or fraudulent purposes.

In ancient Greece the word was the Athenian counterpart of the Roman delator, a public informer. In modern Greek the term has retained its ancient classical meaning, and is still used to describe a slanderer or a calumniator.

Psychology and sociology of sycophancy


Sycophants in popular culture

See also


Further reading

  • Clark LP A Psychological Study of Sycophancy. Psychoanalytic Review 21:15-39 (1934)
  • Lofberg, John Oscar, Sycophancy in Athens (2008)

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