Have you ever made a cynical remark or employed cynical tactics? Tim Bowen gives the lowdown on this popular collocate for the sceptics among us.

The adjective cynical is derived from the ancient school of Greek philosophers known as the Cynics. If you are cynical, you believe that people care only about themselves and are not sincere or honest. You also expect that things will not be successful or useful. Some cynical people are also willing to let other people be harmed so that they can gain an advantage.

Cynical can be used with words that describe actions or plans like attempt, manoeuvre, ploy or tactic, as in 'This was little more than a cynical attempt to smear the President’s reputation’ or ‘The move was described as a cynical ploy to deflect criticism from the government's handling of the economy’.

In terms of behaviour, cynical is often used with the word disregard, as in ‘The company was accused of displaying a cynical disregard for the safety of its workforce’ and with exploitation, as in ‘The judge said the fraud was on a huge scale and was a deliberate and cynical exploitation of friends and family’.

Remarks, comments and response can also be cynical, as in ‘The deal has produced a cynical response in some observers who see it as a sell-out to commercial interests’ or ‘Try to refrain from making cynical remarks and personal attacks on people's characters'.

You can also take a cynical attitude towards something or a cynical view of something, as in ‘This cynical attitude that fails to believe anything anymore is a disease of our age’ and ‘The report gives a false and rather cynical view of the music industry’.