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What's the meaning of lapdog in this context?

Cablegate revealed that some countries cooperated with the U.S. more than others, for example. Sweden played lapdog. Austria annoyed the U.S. etc.

I looked up lapdog in the Longman dictionary but couldn't find it. Is it a newly coined word?

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closed as general reference by onomatomaniak, Mehper C. Palavuzlar, jwpat7, Hugo, kiamlaluno Dec 16 '11 at 15:35

This question is too basic; it can be definitively and permanently answered by a single link to a standard internet reference source designed specifically to find that type of information.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

    
Dictionary.com has your answer: dictionary.reference.com/browse/lapdog –  onomatomaniak Dec 16 '11 at 7:30
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Likewise wiktionary: "(derogatory) one who is completely obedient, unquestioning, and submissive to the government or another party" but it takes an etymonline reference to get 1950 date for that usage. –  jwpat7 Dec 16 '11 at 7:34
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The OED doesn't list this meaning, only the literal one! –  Colin Fine Dec 16 '11 at 8:48
    
-1. Likewise Wikipedia and Urban Dictionary, which are the first two Google results. –  Hugo Dec 16 '11 at 10:56

2 Answers 2

up vote 2 down vote accepted

A lap-dog is a dog small enough to sit on someone’s lap. It’s been around for more than 500 years. Used figuratively in your example, it suggests that Sweden is a small pet belonging to the United States and that it will not act aggressively against its owner.

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It's the term that's been around, not the kind of dog, I suppose? –  Kris Dec 16 '11 at 11:12
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@Kris: The term could hardly exist without the dog. The OED’s earliest citation is from John Evelyn: ‘Those Lap-dogs had so in delicijs by the Ladies . . . are a pigmie sort of Spaniels.’ –  Barrie England Dec 16 '11 at 11:17
    
I mean, they could have been something and then came to be called lap-dogs much later owing to some reason. –  Kris Dec 16 '11 at 11:21
    
@Kris: Who knows? A dictionary can only record words as they appear in surviving texts, at least before the twentieth century. –  Barrie England Dec 16 '11 at 11:25
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@Kris: Similarly, I suppose dachshunds existed long before they were called sausage dogs. –  Barrie England Dec 16 '11 at 11:31

According to Wikipedia, this term means:

The term lapdog is also used to describe a submissive person, such as a "yes" man, or an institution that can be very easily controlled

Dictionary.com has this definition:

a person who attaches himself to someone in admiration

M-W Learner's has this definition:

a weak person who is controlled by someone else

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