In a Word: Demagogue

In a Word is a series focused on the English Language (vocabulary/grammar).

Do you know what the root “demo” means?

It means “people”. You will find this root in such words as democracy, demography, demagogue, epidemic… Let’s look a bit closer at the word “demagogue”.

The word consists of two parts: “demo” (people) and “agagos” (leader). In other words this is someone who leads people.
However, a demagogue is not simply someone who leads. A demagogue is a “popular leader; political agitator appealing to cupidity or prejudice of the masses, factious orator.” (The Concise Oxford Dictionary)

Examples of “demagogue” in a sentence:

  • “To reward this tired demagogue with a vote would be as absurd as electing Dennis the Menace to the highest office in the land.” (NYTimes)

Try to imagine a demagogue talking to a crowd of people. I hope it’s easy to imaging such picture nowadays. Imagine what’s going on in the head of this demagogue. Is he/she leading these people? Is he/she really thinking about them? What is he/she really intending to achieve?

What do you think?


The Concise Oxford Dictionary. Oxford University Press, 1973: 323

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