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can·​ny ˈka-nē How to pronounce canny (audio)
cannier; canniest
: clever, shrewd
a canny lawyer
also : prudent
canny investments
chiefly Scotland
: quiet, snug
then canny, in some cozy place, they close the dayRobert Burns
cannily adverb
canniness noun


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: in a canny manner : carefully

Example Sentences

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
In terms of how the series is structured, Ryan has made some canny choices. Nina Metz, Chicago Tribune, 23 Mar. 2023 The 69-year-old director of the Alabama Securities Commission, in the job since 1994, looks more like a small-town lawyer with his trim, white mustache and boxy suits than an enforcer canny enough to outwit a brash new breed of billionaire tech moguls. Tory Newmyer, Washington Post, 20 Sep. 2022 Moses’s time spent swimming; his canny manipulation of public officials; his first wife’s alcoholism; his increasing disregard for any opinion beyond his own and, of course, those infamous, insidious low bridges over the parkways. Vulture, 11 May 2022 This may add little to our cultural heritage but quite a bit to the bottom lines of these companies’ cannier users. Rob Reid, Ars Technica, 9 Mar. 2023 Where Presley passively went along with the career plans manager Colonel Tom Parker laid out for him, Jerry Lee Lewis — canny, opinionated, and pantingly desirous of stardom — didn’t have that sort of backstage support. Bill Wyman, Vulture, 28 Oct. 2022 Behind the scenes, all is being managed carefully by the hidden master of the yellow press, an illiterate but canny publisher named Dauriat who is played by the incomparable Gérard Depardieu with his typical world-conquering brio. Kyle Smith, WSJ, 9 June 2022 In any case, being draped in custom Ralph Lauren is a canny move for Creed, and the actor that portrays him. Eric Twardzik, Robb Report, 2 Mar. 2023 Perhaps that’s why especially canny fashion folk are pairing more officially with new must-visit venues. Faran Krentcil, ELLE, 21 Feb. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'canny.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History



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

First Known Use


1596, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1786, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of canny was in 1596

Dictionary Entries Near canny

Cite this Entry

“Canny.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 8 Jun. 2023.

Kids Definition


cannier; canniest
: watchful of one's own interest

More from Merriam-Webster on canny

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