Try Our Apps


90s Slang You Should Know


[kuhn-ing] /ˈkʌn ɪŋ/
skill employed in a shrewd or sly manner, as in deceiving; craftiness; guile.
adeptness in performance; dexterity:
The weaver's hand lost its cunning.
showing or made with ingenuity.
artfully subtle or shrewd; crafty; sly.
Informal. charmingly cute or appealing:
a cunning little baby.
Archaic. skillful; expert.
Obsolete. present participle of can1 .
Origin of cunning
1275-1325; (noun) Middle English; Old English cunnung, equivalent to cunn(an) to know (see can1) + -ung -ing1; (adj., v.) Middle English, present participle of cunnan to know (see can1, -ing2)
Related forms
cunningly, adverb
cunningness, noun
overcunning, adjective
overcunningly, adverb
overcunningness, noun
quasi-cunning, adjective
quasi-cunningly, adverb
1. shrewdness, artfulness, wiliness, trickery, finesse, intrigue, slyness, deception. 2. adroitness. 3. ingenious, skillful. 4. artful, wily, tricky, foxy.
Synonym Study
1. Cunning, artifice, craft imply an inclination toward deceit, slyness, and trickery. Cunning implies a shrewd, often instinctive skill in concealing or disguising the real purposes of one's actions: not intelligence but a low kind of cunning. An artifice is a clever, unscrupulous ruse, used to mislead others: a successful artifice to conceal one's motives. Craft suggests underhand methods and the use of deceptive devices and tricks to attain one's ends: craft and deceitfulness in every act. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
Cite This Source
Examples from the Web for cunningly
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • The appeal was cunningly worded, and the setting of the stage for the comedy was perfect.

    Remarkable Rogues Charles Kingston
  • The man projected his unshaven chin, cunningly interrogative.

    From the Car Behind Eleanor M. Ingram
  • It is the cunningly veiled scheme in which that crime was only a detail that I have set myself to discover and foil.

    A Traitor's Wooing Headon Hill
  • "I'll say no more than is necessary," replied Morley cunningly.

    A Coin of Edward VII Fergus Hume
  • This afforded Fra Filippo a welcome opportunity for carrying out what must have been a carefully and cunningly devised scheme.

    Filippo Lippi Paul G. Konody
  • And, waiting for his valet to return, he cunningly took up his fork.

    Five Tales John Galsworthy
  • But our hearts are cunningly made, many-stringed; and often much good music is left in them when we count them broken.

  • And do you suppose I did not know your aims, cunningly as you may think you veiled them?

  • How cunningly things fit together, and shell off till one gets at the kernel!

British Dictionary definitions for cunningly


crafty and shrewd, esp in deception; sly: cunning as a fox
made with or showing skill or cleverness; ingenious
craftiness, esp in deceiving; slyness
cleverness, skill, or ingenuity
Derived Forms
cunningly, adverb
cunningness, noun
Word Origin
Old English cunnende; related to cunnan to know (see can1), cunnian to test, experience, Old Norse kunna to know
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
Cite This Source
Word Origin and History for cunningly



early 14c., "learned, skillful," present participle of cunnen "to know" (see can (v.1)). Sense of "skillfully deceitful" is probably late 14c. As a noun from c.1300. Related: Cunningly.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
Cite This Source

Word of the Day

Difficulty index for cunning

Most English speakers likely know this word

Word Value for cunningly

Scrabble Words With Friends

Nearby words for cunningly