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dem·a·gogue also dem·a·gog (dĕmə-gôg, -gŏg)
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n.
1. A leader who obtains power by means of impassioned appeals to the emotions and prejudices of the populace.
2. A leader of the common people in ancient times.
tr.v. dem·a·gogued, dem·a·gogu·ing, dem·a·gogues also dem·a·goged or dem·a·go·ging or dem·a·goges
Usage Problem To speak about (an issue, for example) in the manner of a demagogue.

[Greek dēmagōgos, popular leader : dēmos, people; see dā- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots + agōgos, leading (from agein, to lead; see ag- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots).]

Usage Note: Even though demagogue has been used as a verb meaning "to speak about something in the manner of a demagogue" since the 1600s, the verb has kept a low profile in the language. Recently, however, it has become a favorite of newspaper columnists. The Usage Panel does not view the verb with much favor in either its transitive or intransitive use. In our 1997 survey, 94 percent rejected it in the sentence Clinton will demagogue Medicare, unwilling to acknowledge that fundamental reforms need to be made in the system. A similar percentage rejected an example in which a representative can demagogue about price-fixing. Perhaps this resistance should not be surprising, since the use of familiar nouns as verbs is often the subject of complaints.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
 

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