adjective, can·ni·er, can·ni·est.

adverb Also can·ni·ly.

in a canny manner.
Scot. carefully; cautiously.

Origin of canny

First recorded in 1630–40; can1 + -y1
Related formscan·ni·ness, nouno·ver·can·ny, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for cannily

meanly, miserly, greedily, parsimoniously, stingily

Examples from the Web for cannily

Contemporary Examples of cannily

Historical Examples of cannily

  • The doctor was called, and cannily solved the problem with a buttered shoe-horn.

    Dear Enemy

    Jean Webster

  • Ive forgotten most of it, Cletus said, cannily dodging the trap.

  • On one occasion only he cannily indemnified his narrative for this drawback.

  • To one who knows that neighbourhood the picture is cannily vivid.


    Christopher Morley

  • "Some of 'em my people, too, Mas' John," he cannily observed.

    Lady Baltimore

    Owen Wister

British Dictionary definitions for cannily


adjective -nier or -niest

shrewd, esp in business; astute or wary; knowing
Scot and Northeast English dialect good or nice: used as a general term of approval
Scot lucky or fortunate


Scot and Northeast English dialect quite; rathera canny long while
Derived Formscannily, adverbcanniness, noun

Word Origin for canny

C16: from can 1 (in the sense: to know how) + -y 1
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

Word Origin and History for cannily



1630s, Scottish and northern English formation from can (v.1) in its sense of "know how to," + -y (2). "Knowing," hence, "careful." A doublet of cunning that flowed into distinct senses. Often used superciliously of Scots by their southern neighbors (and their American cousins).

The Canny Scot is so well known as scarcely to require description. He carries caution, cunning, and selfishness to excess. Deceitful when a purpose is to be accomplished, he is not habitually deceitful. One thing he never loses sight of--his own interest. But of his own interest he is not the most enlightened judge. ["The Natural History of Scotsmen," in "The Argosy," December 1865]

Related: Cannily; canniness.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper