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
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
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

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about cant

Time Traveler for cant

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Statistics for cant

Cite this Entry

“Cant.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 Oct. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for cant


\ ˈkant How to pronounce cant (audio) \

Medical Definition of cant

: an oblique or slanting surface

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on cant

What made you want to look up cant? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


Test Your Vocabulary

Farm Idioms Quiz

  • cow coming home
  • What does 'poke' refer to in the expression 'pig in a poke'?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Dictionary Devil

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!