We all know someone who's a notorious suck-up. Be it with the bosses, the other co-workers, or just the waitress at the diner; they can't seem to turn off the charm. As if that wasn't annoying enough, those are the people who have the better jobs and bigger houses, proving that a little sucking-up never hurt. But why must they schmooze everyone they meet? Well, probably because they're a Sycophant. Sycophant (sy-co-phant) is "a servile self-seeking flatterer" or "A person who acts obsequiously towards someone important in order to gain [an] advantage." Being a Sycophant is a time-honored tradition, but it didn't start out that way. In fact, being a Sycophant used to be an insult. In Ancient Greece, the word sykophantes meant "slanderer." It's comprised of the Greek sykon (fig) and phainein (to show or reveal). This comes from a time when the Greeks had to pay taxes on the figs they brought to market. Some of them would try to avoid the tax, but "fig revealers" would squeal and make them pay up. (Essentially, a Munz-Watcher for figs) Another theory is that sykophantes comes from sticking the thumb through the first two fingers; a vulgar gesture that resembles a fig and is meant as an insult. Sycophant didn't mean "self-seeking flatterer" until the 1570s. Sycophant is a noun and can be used as such when writing. Some examples may include:
"Did you see that Gary brought Janice another "gift" today? He's such a Sycophant."
"Never be friends with a Sycophant. They'll only be around as long as they need you."
"Where his father liked to have sycophants, he likes to be with intellectuals. He likes confrontation." -Franklin Foer, New Republic, 14 Jan. 2002
Do you know a Sycophant? What makes them a Sycophant in your mind?
To learn more about Sycophant, check out Oxford Dictionary, Cambridge Dictionary, Etymology Online, and Merriam Webster. The photo was found on Villians Wikia.