• synonyms


See more synonyms for cant on Thesaurus.com
  1. insincere, especially conventional expressions of enthusiasm for high ideals, goodness, or piety.
  2. the private language of the underworld.
  3. the phraseology peculiar to a particular class, party, profession, etc.: the cant of the fashion industry.
  4. whining or singsong speech, especially of beggars.
Show More
verb (used without object)
  1. to talk hypocritically.
  2. to speak in the whining or singsong tone of a beggar; beg.
Show More

Origin of cant1

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


See more synonyms for on Thesaurus.com


  1. a salient angle.
  2. a sudden movement that tilts or overturns a thing.
  3. a slanting or tilted position.
  4. an oblique line or surface, as one formed by cutting off the corner of a square of cube.
  5. an oblique or slanting face of anything.
  6. Civil Engineering. bank1(def 6).
  7. a sudden pitch or toss.
  8. Also called flitch. a partly trimmed log.
Show More
  1. oblique or slanting.
Show More
verb (used with object)
  1. to bevel; form an oblique surface upon.
  2. to put in an oblique position; tilt; tip.
  3. to throw with a sudden jerk.
Show More
verb (used without object)
  1. to take or have an inclined position; tilt; turn.
Show More

Origin of cant2

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


adjective Scot. and North England.
  1. hearty; merry.
Show More

Origin of cant3

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



[kant, kahnt]
  1. contraction of cannot.
Show More
Can be confusedcant can't Kant

Usage note

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words


Examples from the Web for cant

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • And as to your cant of living single, nobody will believe you.

    Clarissa, Volume 1 (of 9)

    Samuel Richardson

  • In the cant of modern metaphysics, the moment was psychological.

    The Black Bag

    Louis Joseph Vance

  • But we cant leave him to his fate, in this fashion, said Altamont.

    The Field of Ice

    Jules Verne

  • He must be told in the end, for we cant leave him here alone.

    The Field of Ice

    Jules Verne

  • Sheep was a cant word of the time for a spy, under the gaolers.

    A Tale of Two Cities

    Charles Dickens

British Dictionary definitions for cant


  1. insincere talk, esp concerning religion or morals; pious platitudes
  2. stock phrases that have become meaningless through repetition
  3. specialized vocabulary of a particular group, such as thieves, journalists, or lawyers; jargon
  4. singsong whining speech, as used by beggars
Show More
  1. (intr) to speak in or use cant
Show More
Derived Formscanter, nouncantingly, adverb

Word Origin

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


  1. inclination from a vertical or horizontal plane; slope; slant
  2. a sudden movement that tilts or turns something
  3. the angle or tilt thus caused
  4. a corner or outer angle, esp of a building
  5. an oblique or slanting surface, edge, or line
Show More
verb (tr)
  1. to tip, tilt, or overturn, esp with a sudden jerk
  2. to set in an oblique position
  3. another word for bevel (def. 1)
Show More
  1. oblique; slanting
  2. having flat surfaces and without curves
Show More
Derived Formscantic, adjective

Word Origin

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


  1. Scot and Northern English dialect lusty; merry; hearty
Show More

Word Origin

C14: related to Low German kant bold, merry


abbreviation for
  1. Canterbury
  2. Bible Canticles
Show More


contraction of
  1. cannot
Show More
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 cant


"insincere talk," 1709, earlier it was slang for "whining of beggars" (1640s), from the verb in this sense (1560s), from Old North French canter (Old French chanter) "to sing, chant," from Latin cantare, frequentative of canere "to sing" (see chant (v.)). Sense in English developed after 1680 to mean the jargon of criminals and vagabonds, thence applied contemptuously by any sect or school to the phraseology of its rival.

... Slang is universal, whilst Cant is restricted in usage to certain classes of the community: thieves, vagrom men, and -- well, their associates. ... Slang boasts a quasi-respectability denied to Cant, though Cant is frequently more enduring, its use continuing without variation of meaning for many generations. [John S. Farmer, Forewords to "Musa Pedestris," 1896]
Show More


"slope, slant," late 14c., Scottish, "edge, brink," from Old North French cant "corner" (perhaps via Middle Low German kante or Middle Dutch kant), from Vulgar Latin *canthus, from Latin cantus "iron tire of a wheel," possibly from a Celtic word meaning "rim of wheel, edge" (cf. Welsh cant "bordering of a circle, tire, edge," Breton cant "circle"), from PIE *kam-bo- "corner, bend," from root *kemb- "to bend, turn, change" (cf. Greek kanthos "corner of the eye," Russian kutu "corner").

Show More



1706, contraction of cannot.

Show More
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

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.

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