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Sycophant

from the Greek suko-phantes, “fig-blabbers.” The men of Athens passed a law forbidding the exportation of figs; the law was little more than a dead letter, but there were always found mean fellows who, for their own private ends, impeached those who violated it; hence sycophant came to signify first a government toady, and then a toady generally.

“I here use `sycophant' in its original sense, as a wretch who flatters the prevailing party by informing against his neighbours, under pretence that they are exporters of prohibited flgs.” —Coleridge: Biography, vol. iii. chap. x. p. 286.

Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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