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cunning

play
adjective cun·ning \ ˈkə-niŋ \

Definition of cunning

1 :dexterous or crafty in the use of special resources (such as skill or knowledge) or in attaining an end
  • a cunning plotter
2 :displaying keen insight
  • a cunning observation
3 :characterized by wiliness and trickery
  • cunning schemes
4 :prettily appealing :cute
  • a cunning little kitten

cunningly

play \ˈkə-niŋ-lē\ adverb

cunningness

noun

Examples of cunning in a Sentence

  1. … this cat has made his way into the Fitness Center for cunning reasons of his own and reveals himself only to certain privileged individuals. —Joyce Carol OatesHarper'sJune 2008
  2. Throughout his time hunting the vampire, Manolito had been wounded and poisoned on many occasions, but still he'd survived because he'd always used his brain. He was cunning and shrewd and very intelligent. —Christine FeehanDark Possession2007
  3. I have recounted the advice I received from an old-timer about how to keep raccoons out of garbage cans—advice that eventually included the purchase of a combination lock. ("A raccoon's cunning, but he's got no head for figures.") —Calvin TrillinNew Yorker11 Oct. 1993
  4. A cunning politician is often found skulking under the clerical robe, with an outside all religion, and an inside all political rancour. —Washington IrvingA History of New York1809, in History, Tales and Sketches(1977) 1983
  5. So the Leader went into his den and looked at his children—two very cunning little cubs, lying on the floor. —Hugh LoftingThe Story of Doctor Dolittle1920
  6. She was cunning enough to fool me.

  7. a cunning, underhanded plan to win the election by preying on people's fears and prejudices

Recent Examples of cunning from the Web

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Origin and Etymology of cunning

Middle English, from present participle of can know

Synonym Discussion of cunning

clever, adroit, cunning, ingenious mean having or showing practical wit or skill in contriving. clever stresses physical or mental quickness, deftness, or great aptitude.
    • a person clever with horses
adroit often implies a skillful use of expedients to achieve one's purpose in spite of difficulties.
    • an adroit negotiator
cunning implies great skill in constructing or creating.
    • a filmmaker cunning in his use of special effects
ingenious suggests the power of inventing or discovering a new way of accomplishing something.
    • an ingenious software engineer
sly, cunning, crafty, wily, tricky, foxy, artful, slick mean attaining or seeking to attain one's ends by guileful or devious means. sly implies furtiveness, lack of candor, and skill in concealing one's aims and methods.
    • a sly corporate raider
cunning suggests the inventive use of sometimes limited intelligence in overreaching or circumventing.
    • the cunning fox avoided the trap
crafty implies cleverness and subtlety of method.
    • a crafty lefthander
wily implies skill and deception in maneuvering.
    • the wily fugitive escaped the posse
tricky is more likely to suggest shiftiness and unreliability than skill in deception and maneuvering.
    • a tricky political operative
foxy implies a shrewd and wary craftiness usually involving devious dealing.
    • a foxy publicity man planting stories
artful implies indirectness in dealing and often connotes sophistication or cleverness.
    • elicited the information by artful questioning
slick emphasizes smoothness and guile.
    • slick operators selling time-sharing

2

cunning

play
noun cun·ning \ ˈkə-niŋ \

Definition of cunning

1 obsolete
b :magic art
2 :dexterous skill and subtlety (as in inventing, devising, or executing)
  • high-ribbed vault … with perfect cunning framed
  • —William Wordsworth

Examples of cunning in a Sentence

  1. The writing is best in the play's later scenes, when More deploys his legal cunning to help him weasel out of a political trap set by the oleaginous Thomas Cromwell … —John LahrNew Yorker20 Oct. 2008
  2. Tsvetaeva was lacking, moreover, in any instinct for cunning or self-preservation, or even for what might be called mere getting along … —Claudia Roth PierpontNew Yorker7 Feb. 1994
  3. He could see no change, save that in the eyes there was a look of cunning and in the mouth the curved wrinkle of the hypocrite. —Oscar WildeThe Picture of Dorian Gray1891
  4. He may be a fraud, but you have to admire his cunning.

  5. the cunning with which Tom Sawyer was able to get others to whitewash the fence for him

Origin and Etymology of cunning

Synonym Discussion of cunning

art, skill, cunning, artifice, craft mean the faculty of executing well what one has devised. art implies a personal, unanalyzable creative power.
    • the art of choosing the right word
skill stresses technical knowledge and proficiency.
    • the skill of a glassblower
cunning suggests ingenuity and subtlety in devising, inventing, or executing.
    • a mystery plotted with great cunning
artifice suggests technical skill especially in imitating things in nature.
    • believed realism in film could be achieved only by artifice
craft may imply expertness in workmanship.
    • the craft of a master goldsmith


CUNNING Defined for English Language Learners

cunning

play
adjective

Definition of cunning for English Language Learners

  • : getting what is wanted in a clever and often deceptive way


cunning

play
noun

Definition of cunning for English Language Learners

  • : cleverness or skill especially at tricking people in order to get something


CUNNING Defined for Kids

1

cunning

play
adjective cun·ning \ ˈkə-niŋ \

Definition of cunning for Students

1 :skillful and clever at using special knowledge or at getting something done
  • a cunning craftsman
2 :showing craftiness and trickery
  • a cunning plot
  • a cunning thief

2

cunning

noun

Definition of cunning for Students

1 :skill 1, dexterity
  • … they … felt the love of beautiful things made by hands and by cunning
  • —J. R. R. Tolkien, The Hobbit
2 :cleverness or skill especially at tricking people in order to get something
  • … she had been defeated by the superior cunning of the aged witch …
  • —L. Frank Baum, The Marvelous Land of Oz


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