Word of the Day


Liz Potter
Written by Liz Potter


someone who pretends to like a rich or important person in order to get some advantage from them

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

Origin and usage

The first recorded use of the noun toady was in 1826, in a novel by the 19th century politician Benjamin Disraeli, who spelled it ‘Toadey’. He was adapting an earlier term, ‘toad eater’, first used to mean ‘sycophant’ by another politician, Horace Walpole, in a letter written in 1742. The term ‘toad eater’ dates from the early 17th century, while the verb toady was first used in the early 19th century.


A toad eater was originally a charlatan‘s sidekick, employed to eat (or pretend to eat) a toad so that the charlatan could display their prowess in counteracting poison (toads were believed to be poisonous). In the mid 18th century the term acquired a metaphorical meaning, of someone who is prepared to endure a great deal of unpleasantness in the service of a powerful person, in order to advance themselves. The term toady to refer to this kind of person seems to have been coined by the novelist and politician Benjamin Disraeli, who can be presumed to have encountered plentiful examples of the type in both the literary and political worlds of 19th century London.


“The most ‘popular,’ the most ‘successful’ writers among us (for a brief period, at least) are, 99 times out of a hundred, persons of mere effrontery–in a word, busy-bodies, toadies, quacks.”
(Edgar Allan Poe)

“You know what a Toadey is? That agreeable animal which you meet every day in civilized society.”
(Benjamin Disraeli, Vivian Grey)

Related words

lackey, yes man, flunkey, lapdog

Browse related words in the Macmillan Thesaurus.

About the author

Liz Potter

Liz Potter

Leave a Comment