Webster’s defines a demagogue as “a leader who makes use of popular prejudices and false claims and promises in order to gain power.” The word comes from the ancient Greek demos, or people, referring to common or working poor.
Over time, it has been applied to political figures who have used fear, paranoia and scapegoating to win support (as Sen. Joe McCarthy, shown here).
The term has also been used to describe GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump, who called Mexican immigrants "drug traffickers and rapists" and earlier this week proposed closing the United States to all Muslims.
“There’s a fine line between populism and demagoguery,” said Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for American Politics. “Both words describe rabble-rousers. Populism can be used for good, to invoke the little guy versus big business or big government. Demagoguery is a kind of extreme populism that preys on peoples worst fears and often hidden emotions.”
Some demagogues have risen to power and become dictators, others were relegated a footnote to history. Here are a few.
MORE: 7 Signs That You're a Despot