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quotations about cynicism

Cynical is a fool's word for realist.

PAUL CHRISTOPHER, The Lucifer Gospel

Cynicism is cheap—you can buy it at any Monoprix store—it’s built into all poor-quality goods.

GRAHAM GREENE, The Comedians

I think people today are very cynical. They need to bring other people down. Reality television and tabloid magazines—never before did we need to see movie stars taking out their garbage. But all of a sudden, it’s front-page news—trying to figure out who’s dating whom, all that stuff. Who cares?

SCARLETT JOHANSSON, PARADE Magazine, Mar. 11, 2007

Cynicism is an unpleasant way of saying the truth.


When ... the central places of your heart are covered with the snows of pessimism and the ice of cynicism, then are you grown old, indeed!

SAMUEL ULLMAN, From the Summit of Years, Four Score

Please do not be cynical. I hate cynicism. For the record, it's my least favorite quality. It's doesn't lead anywhere. No one in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you're kind, amazing things will happen.

CONAN O'BRIEN, The Tonight Show, Jan. 22, 2010

The cynic is one who never sees a good quality in a man, and never fails to see a bad one. He is the human owl, vigilant in darkness, and blind to light, mousing for vermin, and never seeing noble game.

HENRY WARD BEECHER, Proverbs from Plymouth Pulpit

There is nothing so pitiful as a young cynic because he has gone from knowing nothing to believing nothing.

MAYA ANGELOU, attributed, The Truth in Words

Cynicism is intellectual dandyism.


A cheap and easy cynicism rails at everything. The master of the art accomplishes the formidable task of discrimination.

AMBROSE BIERCE, "Epigrams of a Cynic"

Every ounce of my cynicism is supported by historical precedent.

GLEN COOK, Shadow Games

Cynicism is not realistic and tough. It's unrealistic and kind of cowardly, because it means you don't have to try.

PEGGY NOONAN, Good Housekeeping

Cynicism was a one-way path, and once taken the way back was lost forever.


A cynic is not merely one who reads bitter lessons from the past; he is one who is prematurely disappointed in the future.

SYDNEY J. HARRIS, On the Contrary

Cynicism--the intellectual cripple's substitute for intelligence.

RUSSELL LYNES, attributed, The Little Giant Encyclopedia of Toasts & Quotes

The cynic is to the world what the confirmed bachelor is to mankind.

E. P. DAY, attributed, Day's Collacon

[The] power of accurate observation ... is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it.

BERNARD SHAW, Shaw's Music

Cynic, n. A blackguard whose faulty vision sees things as they are not as they ought to be.

AMBROSE BIERCE, The Devil's Dictionary

A cynic is a person searching for an honest man, with a stolen lantern.

EDGAR A. SHOAFF, attributed, Bathroom Almanac

Scratch any cynic and you will find a disappointed idealist.

GEORGE CARLIN, stand-up routine

A cynic sees little to admire in the world, while the world sees even less to admire in him.

EVAN ESAR, 20,000 Quips & Quotes

Cynic: An idealist whose rose-colored glasses have been removed, snapped in two and stomped into the ground, immediately improving his vision.

RICK BAYAN, The Cynic's Dictionary

Don't be a cynic and disconsolate preacher. Don't bewail and bemoan. Omit the negative propositions. Nerve us with incessant affirmatives. Don't waste yourself in rejection, nor bark against the bad, but chant the beauty of the good.

RALPH WALDO EMERSON, Society and Solitude

A cynic is a man who, when he smells flowers, looks around for the coffin.

H. L. MENCKEN, The Smart Set

Cynicism, like gullibility, is a symptom of underdeveloped critical faculties.

JAMIE WHYTE, Crimes Against Logic

A beardless cynic is the shame of nature.


The greater part of the truth is always hidden, in regions out of the reach of cynicism.

J. R. R. TOLKIEN, letter to Michael Tolkien, Nov. 1, 1963

Cynicism ... merely critiques. It is passive, cocooning itself from the passions of the great cosmic battle we are engaged in. It is without hope.

PAUL E. MILLER, A Praying Life

Our knowledge has made us cynical. Our cleverness, hard and unkind. We think too much and feel too little. More than machinery we need humanity. More than cleverness we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost.

CHARLIE CHAPLIN, The Great Dictator

No matter how cynical you get, it is impossible to keep up.

LILY TOMLIN, stand-up routine

Cynicism is intellectual treason.


Cynicism is a cheap emotion, a craven substitute for thought and action.

EDWARD ABBEY, Hayduke Lives

A cynic is just a man who found out when he was about ten that there wasn't any Santa Claus, and he's still upset. Yes, there'll be more war ; and soon, I don't doubt. There always has been. There'll be deaths and disappointments and failures. When they come, you meet them.

JAMES GOULD COZZENS, The Just and the Unjust

Cynicism masquerades as wisdom, but it is the farthest thing from it. Because cynics don’t learn anything. Because cynicism is a self-imposed blindness, a rejection of the world because we are afraid it will hurt us or disappoint us.

STEPHEN COLBERT, Knox College commencement address, Jun. 3, 2006


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