can·​ny | \ ˈka-nē How to pronounce canny (audio) \
cannier; canniest

Definition of canny

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : clever, shrewd a canny lawyer also : prudent canny investments
2 chiefly Scotland
b : quiet, snug then canny, in some cozy place, they close the day— Robert Burns



Definition of canny (Entry 2 of 2)

: in a canny manner : carefully

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Other Words from canny


cannily \ ˈka-​nə-​lē How to pronounce cannily (audio) \ adverb
canniness \ ˈka-​nē-​nəs How to pronounce canniness (audio) \ noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for canny

Synonyms: Adjective

Antonyms: Adjective

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Examples of canny in a Sentence

Adjective a canny card player, good at psyching out his opponents warm and canny under the woolen bedcovers, we didn't mind the chilly Scottish nights
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Certain canny competitors, therefore, have plunged deep into their back catalog to find their own answer to grandma-chic. Natasha Frost, Quartzy, "As Aperol spritz fatigue sets in, the fight to sell the next big drink is already underway," 30 Oct. 2019 And yet, despite the group's extremist views and vicious tactics, Baghdadi maintained a canny pragmatism as leader, melding a fractious mix of radical jihadists and former Iraqi Baathists and army officers into an effective military force. Author: Joby Warrick, Anchorage Daily News, "Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Islamic State’s ‘terrorist-in-chief,’ dead at 48," 27 Oct. 2019 His sentiments are admirably tolerant — and also canny, as his post appeared underneath a photo of himself posing coquettishly in a leopard-print robe, matching loafers, tall pink socks and a chain-link necklace in a magazine. Steve Knopper,, "Yungblud is a public persona with a public life, who also likes to keep things private," 4 Oct. 2019 Transsion has had huge success in Africa’s biggest consumer market with its canny blend of mass marketing and brand awareness. Paul Adepoju, Quartz Africa, "How thinking and acting local took Africa’s top-selling phone maker to a multibillion-dollar IPO," 3 Oct. 2019 And at other times, the bassist appeared an artist who can hold down any and all popular music with a canny ear, an ageless but aged figure who helped age down the headliner. Andrew Dansby, Houston Chronicle, "Phil Collins: not dead, yet, at Toyota Center," 24 Sep. 2019 Apparently unaware of, or unconcerned with, the advantages offered by the canny use of public diplomacy, coercive tactics have become a main feature of his Presidency. Jon Lee Anderson, The New Yorker, "Mexico, Cuba, and Trump’s Increasing Preference for Punishment Over Diplomacy," 11 June 2019 While con artists can be clever, many can be foiled by knowledgeable— and equally canny—consumers., "Interactive quiz: Could you pass the PARCC standardized tests?," 27 Aug. 2019 At the National Eisteddfod, an annual festival of Welsh culture that took place outside Llanrwst earlier this month, canny businesses sold mugs, bumper stickers and cushions emblazoned with the slogan. The Economist, "An act of vandalism sparks more talk of independence in Wales," 22 Aug. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'canny.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of canny


1596, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1786, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for canny


can entry 1

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Time Traveler for canny

Time Traveler

The first known use of canny was in 1596

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Statistics for canny

Last Updated

21 Nov 2019

Cite this Entry

“Canny.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 21 November 2019.

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More Definitions for canny


How to pronounce canny (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of canny

: very clever and able to make intelligent decisions


can·​ny | \ ˈka-nē How to pronounce canny (audio) \
cannier; canniest

Kids Definition of canny

: clever especially in taking advantage of opportunities : shrewd a canny decision canny shoppers

Other Words from canny

cannily \ ˈka-​nə-​lē \ adverb

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More from Merriam-Webster on canny

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for canny

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with canny

Spanish Central: Translation of canny

Nglish: Translation of canny for Spanish Speakers

Comments on canny

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strength of mind

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