wily

as in cunning
clever at attaining one's ends by indirect and often deceptive means a wily judge of character, she takes advantage of car buyers' insecurities to sell them a bigger machine than they really need

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How is the word wily distinct from other similar adjectives?

Some common synonyms of wily are artful, crafty, cunning, foxy, slick, sly, and tricky. While all these words mean "attaining or seeking to attain one's ends by guileful or devious means," wily implies skill and deception in maneuvering.

the wily fugitive escaped the posse

When is it sensible to use artful instead of wily?

The words artful and wily are synonyms, but do differ in nuance. Specifically, artful implies indirectness in dealing and often connotes sophistication or cleverness.

elicited the information by artful questioning

When might crafty be a better fit than wily?

The words crafty and wily can be used in similar contexts, but crafty implies cleverness and subtlety of method.

a crafty lefthander

When would cunning be a good substitute for wily?

The meanings of cunning and wily largely overlap; however, cunning suggests the inventive use of sometimes limited intelligence in overreaching or circumventing.

the cunning fox avoided the trap

Where would foxy be a reasonable alternative to wily?

While in some cases nearly identical to wily, foxy implies a shrewd and wary craftiness usually involving devious dealing.

a foxy publicity man planting stories

When can slick be used instead of wily?

While the synonyms slick and wily are close in meaning, slick emphasizes smoothness and guile.

slick operators selling time-sharing

When is sly a more appropriate choice than wily?

In some situations, the words sly and wily are roughly equivalent. However, sly implies furtiveness, lack of candor, and skill in concealing one's aims and methods.

a sly corporate raider

In what contexts can tricky take the place of wily?

The synonyms tricky and wily are sometimes interchangeable, but tricky is more likely to suggest shiftiness and unreliability than skill in deception and maneuvering.

a tricky political operative

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Cite this Entry

“Wily.” Merriam-Webster.com Thesaurus, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/thesaurus/wily. Accessed 29 Jan. 2023.

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