Thesaurus

cunning

adjective

Synonyms & Antonyms of cunning

(Entry 1 of 2)

2 skillful with the hands
  • only the most cunning cabinetmaker could have crafted such a beautifully proportioned chest of drawers

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cunning

noun

Synonyms & Antonyms of cunning (Entry 2 of 2)

1 skill in achieving one's ends through indirect, subtle, or underhanded means
  • the cunning with which Tom Sawyer was able to get others to whitewash the fence for him

Synonyms for cunning

Words Related to cunning

2 subtle or imaginative ability in inventing, devising, or executing something
  • the unmatched cunning of the scout who led them safely through the trackless wilderness

Synonyms for cunning

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See the Dictionary Definition 

Frequently Asked Questions About cunning

How is the word cunning distinct from other similar adjectives?

Some common synonyms of cunning are artful, crafty, foxy, slick, sly, tricky, and wily. While all these words mean "attaining or seeking to attain one's ends by guileful or devious means," cunning suggests the inventive use of sometimes limited intelligence in overreaching or circumventing.

the cunning fox avoided the trap

In what contexts can artful take the place of cunning?

While in some cases nearly identical to cunning, artful implies indirectness in dealing and often connotes sophistication or cleverness.

elicited the information by artful questioning

Where would crafty be a reasonable alternative to cunning?

The synonyms crafty and cunning are sometimes interchangeable, but crafty implies cleverness and subtlety of method.

a crafty lefthander

When is it sensible to use foxy instead of cunning?

The words foxy and cunning can be used in similar contexts, but foxy implies a shrewd and wary craftiness usually involving devious dealing.

a foxy publicity man planting stories

When could slick be used to replace cunning?

In some situations, the words slick and cunning are roughly equivalent. However, slick emphasizes smoothness and guile.

slick operators selling time-sharing

When would sly be a good substitute for cunning?

Although the words sly and cunning have much in common, sly implies furtiveness, lack of candor, and skill in concealing one's aims and methods.

a sly corporate raider

When might tricky be a better fit than cunning?

While the synonyms tricky and cunning are close in meaning, tricky is more likely to suggest shiftiness and unreliability than skill in deception and maneuvering.

a tricky political operative

When can wily be used instead of cunning?

The meanings of wily and cunning largely overlap; however, wily implies skill and deception in maneuvering.

the wily fugitive escaped the posse

Learn More About cunning

Time Traveler for cunning

Time Traveler

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

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Thesaurus Entries Near cunning

cumulus

cunning

cunningly

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Cite this Entry

“Cunning.” Merriam-Webster.com Thesaurus, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/thesaurus/cunning. Accessed 27 Jan. 2022.

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Nglish: Translation of cunning for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of cunning for Arabic Speakers

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