It appears that the word sycophant originated during a war between Athens and Thebes.

The Athenians were avid figs consumers, and Thebes was one of the greatest fig exporters in Greece. Because of the war, a fig embargo was decreed and a florid theban figs black market was soon born and, with it, the much hated character who took it upon himself to inform about the illegal fig trade.

Because in ancient Greek the word for fig is "sukon" and "to reveal" translates as "phaino", the above mentioned character was called "sicophant" - one who reveals about the figs.

(The first time I heard about this etymology from my Greek teacher, she told that the second part of the word came from "phemi" - to say. 15 minutes into my E2 experience, my attention was called to the - much more sensible - derivation from phaino)

Oh, these are some of the best writeups I've seen. The beautiful people who wrote them are so talented, especially those with C! abilities. I truly admire the dazzling prose, the elegant poetry.

While I'm at it, can I ask for a round of applause for the gods and editors. It's all too easy to forget the sterling work that they do. I'd especially like to heap inordinate amounts of praise on the perfectly formed icons of humanity that are Dem Bones, Gritchka, dragoon, Fraun and JerboaKolinowski, but mostly ryano.

Please also give three cheers to nate for his MySQL wrangling. I'd like to buy everyone out there of level 2 or over a pint, especially you, reading this. I wish I was just like you.

Syc"o*phant (?), n. [L. sycophanta a slanderer, deceiver, parasite, Gr. a false accuser, false adviser, literally, a fig shower; a fig + to show: cf. F. sycophante. The reason for the name is not certainly known. See Phenomenon.]


An informer; a talebearer.

[Obs.] "Accusing sycophants, of all men, did best sort to his nature."

Sir P. Sidney.


A base parasite; a mean or servile flatterer; especially, a flatterer of princes and great men.

A sycophant will everything admire: Each verse, each sentence, sets his soul on fire. Dryden.


© Webster 1913.

Syc"o*phant (?), v. t. [CF. L. sycophantari to deceive, to trick, Gr. .]


To inform against; hence, to calumniate.


Sycophanting and misnaming the work of his adversary. Milton.


To play the sycophant toward; to flatter obsequiously.


© Webster 1913.

Syc"o*phant, v. i.

To play the sycophant.


© Webster 1913.

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