[ kant ]
/ kænt /


insincere, especially conventional expressions of enthusiasm for high ideals, goodness, or piety.
the private language of the underworld.
the phraseology peculiar to a particular class, party, profession, etc.: the cant of the fashion industry.
whining or singsong speech, especially of beggars.

verb (used without object)

to talk hypocritically.
to speak in the whining or singsong tone of a beggar; beg.

Origin of cant

1495–1505; < Latin base cant- in cantus song, canticus singsong, etc., whence Old English cantere singer, cantic song; see chant
Related formscant·ing·ly, adverb
Can be confusedcant can't Kantcant jargon1 slang1

Definition for cant (2 of 5)

Origin of cant

1325–75; Middle English: side, border < Anglo-French cant, Old French chant < a Romance base *cantu(m) with the related senses “rim, border” and “angle corner,” probably < Celtic; compare Latin cant(h)us iron tire (< Celtic), Welsh cant periphery, rim, felloe; probably not akin to Greek kanthós corner of the eye; cf. canteen, cantle, canton
Related formscant·ic, adjective

Definition for cant (3 of 5)


[ kahnt ]
/ kɑnt /

adjective Scot. and North England.

hearty; merry.

Origin of cant

1250–1300; Middle English < Low German kant merry, bold

Definition for cant (4 of 5)

Definition for cant (5 of 5)


[ kant, kahnt ]
/ kænt, kɑnt /

contraction of cannot.
Can be confusedcant can't Kant

Usage note Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for cant

British Dictionary definitions for cant (1 of 5)


/ (kænt) /


insincere talk, esp concerning religion or morals; pious platitudes
stock phrases that have become meaningless through repetition
specialized vocabulary of a particular group, such as thieves, journalists, or lawyers; jargon
singsong whining speech, as used by beggars


(intr) to speak in or use cant
Derived Formscanter, nouncantingly, adverb

Word Origin for cant

C16: probably via Norman French canter to sing, from Latin cantāre; used disparagingly, from the 12th century, of chanting in religious services

British Dictionary definitions for cant (2 of 5)


/ (kænt) /


verb (tr)


oblique; slanting
having flat surfaces and without curves
Derived Formscantic, adjective

Word Origin for cant

C14 (in the sense: edge, corner): perhaps from Latin canthus iron hoop round a wheel, of obscure origin

British Dictionary definitions for cant (3 of 5)


/ (kɑːnt) /


Scot and Northern English dialect lusty; merry; hearty

Word Origin for cant

C14: related to Low German kant bold, merry

British Dictionary definitions for cant (4 of 5)


abbreviation for

Bible Canticles

British Dictionary definitions for cant (5 of 5)


/ (kɑːnt) /

contraction of

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

Idioms and Phrases with cant


In addition to the idioms beginning with can't

  • can't abide
  • can't but
  • can't complain
  • can't do anything with
  • can't fight City Hall
  • can't help
  • can't hit the broad side of a barn
  • can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear
  • can't make head or tail of
  • can't punch one's way out of a paper bag
  • can't see beyond the end of one's nose.
  • can't seem to
  • can't see the forest for the trees
  • can't stand
  • can't wait

also see:

  • beggars can't be choosers
  • if you can't beat them, join them
  • you can't take it with you
  • you can't win them all

Also see undercan.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.