noun (1)

Definition of cant

 (Entry 1 of 7)

1 : the expression or repetition of conventional or trite opinions or sentiments especially : the insincere use of pious words the cant of hypocrites
2 : a set or stock phrase
3a : the private language of the underworld the cant of thieves
c obsolete : the phraseology peculiar to a religious class or sect
4 : affected singsong or whining speech a beggar's cant


verb (1)
canted; canting; cants

Definition of cant (Entry 2 of 7)

intransitive verb

1 : to talk hypocritically canted about brotherly love
2 : to speak in cant or jargon The thieves were canting among themselves.
3 : to talk or beg in a whining or singsong manner bade me cant and whine in another place— Samuel Johnson


verb (2)
canted; canting; cants

Definition of cant (Entry 3 of 7)

intransitive verb

1 : to pitch to one side : lean The deck of the ship was canting.
2 : slope The roof canted gently.

transitive verb

1 : to set at an angle : tilt cant a cask
2 : to give a cant or oblique edge to : bevel cant off a corner
3 chiefly British : to throw with a lurch


noun (2)

Definition of cant (Entry 4 of 7)

1a : an oblique or slanting surface the cant of a riverbank
b : inclination, slope the cant of a gun barrel
2 : an external angle (as of a building)
3 : a log with one or more squared sides
4 obsolete : corner, niche

Definition of cant (Entry 5 of 7)

1 : having canted corners or sides a cant molding
2 : inclined sense 2 a cant buttress
\ ˈkant How to pronounce cant (audio) \

Definition of cant (Entry 6 of 7)

dialectal, England

Definition of Cant (Entry 7 of 7)

First Known Use of cant

Noun (1)

1640, in the meaning defined at sense 4

Verb (1)

1567, in the meaning defined at sense 3

Verb (2)

circa 1543, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 2

Noun (2)

1603, in the meaning defined at sense 4

Adjective (1)

1663, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Adjective (2)

14th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for cant

Verb (1)

perhaps from Middle French dialect (Norman-Picard) canter to tell, literally, to sing, from Latin cantare — more at chant

Noun (2) and Verb (2)

Middle English cant side, probably from Middle Dutch or Middle French dialect; Middle Dutch, edge, corner, from Middle French dialect (Picard), from Latin canthus, cantus iron tire, perhaps of Celtic origin; akin to Welsh cant rim; perhaps akin to Greek kanthos corner of the eye

Adjective (2)

Middle English, probably from Middle Low German *kant

Learn More About cant

Time Traveler for cant

Time Traveler

The first known use of cant was in the 14th century

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Cite this Entry

“Cant.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Sep. 2022.

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More Definitions for cant


\ ˈkant How to pronounce cant (audio) \

Medical Definition of cant

: an oblique or slanting surface

More from Merriam-Webster on cant

Nglish: Translation of cant for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of cant for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about cant


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