In modern English, sycophant denotes an "insincere flatterer" and is used to refer to someone practising sycophancy (i.e., insincere flattery to gain advantage). The word has its origin in the legal system of Classical Athens. Most legal cases of the time were brought by private litigants as there was no police force and only a limited number of officially appointed public prosecutors. By the fifth century BC this practice had given rise to abuse by "sycophants": litigants who brought unjustified prosecutions. The word retains the same meaning ('slanderer') in Modern Greek, French, (where it also can mean 'informer') and Italian. In modern English, the meaning of the word has shifted to its present usage.