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

Synonyms & Antonyms for canny

Synonyms: Adjective

astute, clear-eyed, clear-sighted, hard-boiled, hardheaded, heady, knowing, savvy, sharp, sharp-witted, shrewd, smart

Antonyms: Adjective


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Examples of canny in a Sentence


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

Expos were another canny marketing tool: Display show-stoppers, and watch the commissions roll in. Cate Mcquaid,, "With this glittering display of silver, a Providence rags-to-riches tale," 3 July 2019 In this canny scenario, the end-of-Earth calamities are all rolled up into the massive asteroid streaking toward Earth at 22,000 mph, due to hit in 18 days since first sighted by NASA. Duane Byrge, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Armageddon': THR's 1998 Review," 1 July 2019 Saslaw, a canny veteran of Capitol politics who is ardently pro-business and chummy with Republicans, hasn’t faced a primary challenger in 40 years. Washington Post, "Feisty Virginia primaries closely watched for national trend," 11 June 2019 Neil Woodford, who built a formidable reputation as a canny stock picker with contrarian views over more than two decades managing money for U.K.-listed Invesco, closed the gate on his Woodford Equity Income Fund on Monday. Paul J. Davies, WSJ, "Star Manager Woodford Halts Fund’s Redemptions," 4 June 2019 Saslaw, a canny veteran of Capitol politics who is ardently pro-business and chummy with Republicans, hasn't faced a primary challenger in 40 years. CBS News, "Virginia holds primary election as political watchers look for 2020 trends," 11 June 2019 Vo is too canny and too much of an aesthete for that. David Salle, The New York Review of Books, "David Salle," 9 May 2019 But some canny creatures seem to have come back from the beyond. Caitlin Etherton, National Geographic, "See 8 animal species that came back from the dead," 1 Mar. 2019 Now, these partnerships are first and foremost a canny business move. Glamour, "At Long Last, Fashion Is Making Cool Merch for Fandoms," 19 Apr. 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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Dictionary Entries near canny





canny moment



Statistics for canny

Last Updated

18 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for canny

The first known use of canny was in 1596

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More Definitions for canny



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

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with canny

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for canny

Spanish Central: Translation of canny

Nglish: Translation of canny for Spanish Speakers

Comments on canny

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characterized by aphorism

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