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Related to obsequiousness: sycophantic, subservience


 (ŏb-sē′kwē-əs, əb-)
Full of or exhibiting servile compliance; fawning.

[Middle English, from Latin obsequiōsus, from obsequium, compliance, from obsequī, to comply : ob-, to; see ob- + sequī, to follow; see sekw- in Indo-European roots.]

ob·se′qui·ous·ly adv.
ob·se′qui·ous·ness n.
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.



apple-polisher A sycophant or toady; an ingratiating flatterer. This informal U.S. term stems from the schoolboy practice of bringing an apple to the teacher, supposedly to compensate for ill-prepared lessons. It has been in common student use since 1925 and has given us the now equally common verb phrases apple-polish and polish or shine up the apple, both meaning to curry favor with one’s superiors.

ass kisser A fawning flatterer, especially one who is two-faced—submissively deferential to superiors in their presence but boldly badmouthing them in their absence. The once taboo, self-explanatory term has gained general currency in spoken usage where it is rapidly losing its literal associations. It has yet to become an acceptable word in the written language, however.

bootlick A self-explanatory but stronger term for an apple-polisher or toady. The phrase to lick [someone’s] boots or shoes has the same connotation of abject servility and devotion.

brown-nose A fawning flatterer, an obsequious sycophant. The term is more strongly derogatory than apple-polisher, and was once considered vulgar owing to its derivation from the image of the ass kisser. Frequent use has rendered the term innocuous, though still insulting. Its corresponding verb form means to curry favor.

curry favor To seek to ingratiate one-self with one’s superiors by flattery or servile demeanor. The original term to curry Favel, in use until the early 17 th century, derived from a 14th-century French satirical romance in which the cunning, duplicitous centaur Fauvel granted favors to those who curried, or rubbed down, his coat. The natural English transition to favor appeared as early as 1510, and after a century of coexistence, totally replaced the earlier favel.

dance attendance on To be totally servile to another; to wait upon obsequiously. This expression originated from an ancient tradition that required a bride to dance with all the guests at her wedding. The phrase, found in literature dating from the 1500s, appears in its figurative sense in Shakespeare’s Henry VIII (1613):

A man of his place, and so near our favour,
To dance attendance on our lordship’s pleasure. (V, ii)

lickspittle The most servile of sycophants, the basest of groveling, parasitic toadies. An early use underscores the self-evident origin of the term:

Gib, Lick her spittle From the ground. (Sir William Davenant, Albovine, 1629)

make fair weather To conciliate or flatter by behaving in an overly friendly manner; to ingratiate one-self with a superior by representing things in a falsely optimistic light. Shakespeare used this expression in Henry VI, Part II; however, it goes back even earlier to the turn of the 15th century.

But I must make fair weather yet awhile,
Till Henry be more weak, and I more strong. (V, i)

toad-eater A servile and obsequious attendant or follower; one who will go to any lengths to comply with a superior’s wishes; a toady (whence the term) or sycophant. According to the OED, the original toad-eaters were charlatans’ assistants who ate, or pretended to eat, poisonous toads, thus providing their mountebank masters with the opportunity to display their curative powers by expelling the deadly toxin.

tuft-hunter A self-seeking flatterer, particularly of the prestigious and powerful; one who attempts to enhance his own status by consorting with those of higher station. Formerly, titled undergraduates at Oxford and Cambridge were, in university parlance, called tufts, after the tuft or gold tassel worn on their mortarboards as an indication of their rank. Those of lesser standing who sought their attentions and company thus came to be known as tuft-hunters.

Picturesque Expressions: A Thematic Dictionary, 1st Edition. © 1980 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
ThesaurusAntonymsRelated WordsSynonymsLegend:
Noun1.obsequiousness - abject or cringing submissiveness
submissiveness - the trait of being willing to yield to the will of another person or a superior force etc.
sycophancy - fawning obsequiousness
Based on WordNet 3.0, Farlex clipart collection. © 2003-2012 Princeton University, Farlex Inc.
تَذَلُّل، تَزَلُّف
fleîulæti, auîmÿkt


[əbˈsiːkwɪəsnɪs] Nservilismo m, sumisión f
Collins Spanish Dictionary - Complete and Unabridged 8th Edition 2005 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1971, 1988 © HarperCollins Publishers 1992, 1993, 1996, 1997, 2000, 2003, 2005


nUnterwürfigkeit f, → Servilität f (geh)
Collins German Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged 7th Edition 2005. © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1980 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1997, 1999, 2004, 2005, 2007


(əbˈsiːkwiəs) adjective
too humble or too ready to agree with someone. He bowed in an obsequious manner.
obˈsequiously adverb
obˈsequiousness noun
Kernerman English Multilingual Dictionary © 2006-2013 K Dictionaries Ltd.
References in classic literature ?
A fortunate chance had recommended him to Lady Catherine de Bourgh when the living of Hunsford was vacant; and the respect which he felt for her high rank, and his veneration for her as his patroness, mingling with a very good opinion of himself, of his authority as a clergyman, and his right as a rector, made him altogether a mixture of pride and obsequiousness, self-importance and humility.
The old gentleman is helped into the chaise with great obsequiousness by Mr Sampson Brass; and the pony, after shaking his head several times, and standing for three or four minutes with all his four legs planted firmly on the ground, as if he had made up his mind never to stir from that spot, but there to live and die, suddenly darts off, without the smallest notice, at the rate of twelve English miles an hour.
Monsieur Gabelle was the Postmaster, and some other taxing functionary united; he had come out with great obsequiousness to assist at this examination, and had held the examined by the drapery of his arm in an official manner.
The crusty portier and the crusty clerks gave us the surly reception which their kind deal out in prosperous times, but by mollifying them with an extra display of obsequiousness and servility we finally got them to show us to the room which our boy had engaged for us.
What, I asked in my own mind, can cause this obsequiousness on the part of Miss Toady; has Briefless got a county court, or has his wife had a fortune left her?
These were Captain Langford, the English officer before mentioned; a Virginian planter, who had come to Massachusetts on some political errand; a young Episcopal clergyman, the grandson of a British earl; and, lastly, the private secretary of Governor Shute, whose obsequiousness had won a sort of tolerance from Lady Eleanore.
The governor, suspicious and hard, behaved towards D'Artagnan with a politeness almost amounting to obsequiousness. With respect to the travelers, he contented himself with offering good cheer, and never taking his eye from them.
When the rich tax the poor with servility and obsequiousness, they should consider the effect of men reputed to be the possessors of nature, on imaginative minds.
The whole air and attitude of the form was one of stealthy cat-like obsequiousness; the whole expression of the face was concentrated in a wrinkled leer, compounded of cunning, lecherousness, slyness, and avarice.
The first act of Franz was to summon his landlord, who presented himself with his accustomed obsequiousness.
Although Jaishankar's recent visit to Kathmandu witnessed all manner of supine - if unsurprising - obsequiousness on the part of Nepal's current gaggle of politicos, Foreign Minister Pradeep Gwayali's stance on Kashmir was salutary if puzzling, while further underscoring India's diplomatic loneliness.
Although he did not mention the media, he traced the general obsequiousness to 1,200 years of "ghulami" or subjugation.