can·​ny | \ˈka-nē \
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-​nᵊl-​ē \ adverb
canniness \ ˈka-​nē-​nəs \ 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

For years, that has been a useful solution to the thorny problem of online identity – and a canny strategy for Facebook to lock users in to its broader ecosystem. David Z. Morris, Fortune, "How to Delete Your Facebook Account – And Why It’s So Hard to Do," 24 Mar. 2018 But in a recent piece on women and true crime, Cammila Collar finds canny parallels between the recurrent subjects of true crime (love-gone-wrong, family conflict, domestic violence) and the hard numbers on gender and violence. Megan Abbott,, "Why do we — women in particular — love true crime books?," 14 June 2018 Trump, of course, was the canny marketer, while Clinton’s team was the unengaging competitor. Alexis C. Madrigal, The Atlantic, "Why Donald Trump Was the 'Perfect Candidate' for Facebook," 26 Feb. 2018 And trusting in America’s canny de-escalation tactics at this point seems naïve. Heather Souvaine Horn, The New Republic, "The Problem With “Cold War” Comparisons," 17 Apr. 2018 But such secrecy, said Dan Cryan, executive director of research at IHS Markit, a media analysis firm, is the company’s prerogative — perhaps even a canny way to keep the upper hand in negotiations with partners. Daniel Arkin /, NBC News, "Apple's script for conquering Hollywood is a mystery so far," 13 July 2018 Convincing African countries to do something similar would require cannier diplomacy than the EU can muster, combining trade, migration, visa and development tools. The Economist, "Europe is moving towards the tough immigration policies of Sebastian Kurz," 5 July 2018 Cuomo, like most of his predecessors, not to mention de Blasio, is too canny to want to be the face of the M.T.A. Byford, on the other hand, is happy to be out front, fully identified with the subways and buses and fully accountable. William Finnegan, The New Yorker, "Can Andy Byford Save the Subways?," 2 July 2018 In some ways, Mr. Abloh was a canny choice as collaborator. Jacob Gallagher, WSJ, "IKEA’s New Collection Could Sell out in Seconds—Here’s Why," 4 May 2018

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


circa 1796, 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

7 Nov 2018

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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 \
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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