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
a : careful, steady also : restrained
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 canny (audio) \ adverb
canniness \ ˈka-​nē-​nəs How to pronounce canny (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 Kuper hoped their similar peripatetic and cosmopolitan experiences would lull the canny Blake into a more relaxed and expansive rapport with his interviewer. Xan Smiley, The New York Review of Books, 23 Sep. 2021 This was his first fashion partnership, which is a canny signing indeed by Boss. Luke Leitch, Vogue, 24 Sep. 2021 Having the song performed by Drexler, who grew up in Uruguay when that country was ruled by a military dictatorship in the 1970s and ‘80s, is a canny move. George Varga, San Diego Union-Tribune, 19 Sep. 2021 The initial anonymity was a canny move in an era of chronic celebrity overshare, equal parts self-preservation and marketing. Meaghan Garvey, Vulture, 3 Sep. 2021 Other fine turns include Peter Pasco as a canny bartender and Adelina Mitchell as the owner of that run-down bar, Rosario’s Lounge and Karaoke. Washington Post, 17 Sep. 2021 But there’s also a canny awareness that to make Clara more like everyone else would be to interfere with her marketability — for want of a better word — as a mystic. Jessica Kiang, Variety, 29 Aug. 2021 As Monica, Feldstein proves herself to be a canny bit of casting. Caroline Framke, Variety, 31 Aug. 2021 This enjoyably canny thriller is kind of Freeway meets Shadow of a Doubt. Marshall Heyman, Vulture, 23 June 2021

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


originally Scots & regional northern English, going back to early Scots, "free from risk, sagacious, prudent, cautious," probably from can "ability" (noun derivative of can can entry 1) + -y -y entry 1

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Dictionary Entries Near canny



canny moment

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Last Updated

16 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Canny.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 Oct. 2021.

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More Definitions for canny



English Language Learners Definition of canny

: very clever and able to make intelligent decisions : shrewd


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

More from Merriam-Webster on canny

Nglish: Translation of canny for Spanish Speakers


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