1550s, "one of the ancient sect of philosophy founded by Antisthenes," from Latinized form of Greek kynikos "a follower of Antisthenes," literally "dog-like," from kyōn (genitive kynos) "dog" (from PIE root *kwon- "dog").
Supposedly the name is a reference to the coarseness of life and sneering surliness of the philosophers, and the popular association even in ancient times was "dog-like" (Lucian has kyniskos "a little cynic," literally "puppy"). But more likely it is from Kynosarge "The Gray Dog," the name of the gymnasium outside ancient Athens (for the use of those who were not pure Athenians) where Antisthenes (a pupil of Socrates), taught. Diogenes was the most famous. Meaning "sneering sarcastic person" is from 1590s. As an adjective from 1630s.