astute; shrewd; knowing; sagacious: a canny negotiator.
Canny originally meant “knowing, wise,” and was a doublet of cunning, originally “knowledgeable, learned, skillful.” Canny (and cunning) both derive from Old English cunnan “to become acquainted with, know” (Modern English verb can). All of the citations of canny before, say, 1800, are from Scottish authors, and the word is first attested in the latter half of the 16th century. Uncanny is also originally Scottish, but feels as American as the pulp horror and sci-fi magazines of the 1930s. The now usual sense of uncanny, “having a supernatural or inexplicable basis,” dates from the mid-19th century.
He thought himself canny and alert, able to uncover plots, or flatter the great and trick them, bend events to his will.
You have had things all your own way for all your life (… your brothers are much more canny than you are about political issues).
precise details; small or trifling matters: the minutiae of his craft.
In English, minutiae is the plural of the noun minutia, which usually appears in the plural with the meaning “precise details, trifling matters,” the same sense as the Late Latin plural noun minūtiae. In Latin only the singular minūtia appears, and it has its literal meaning “smallness, fineness,” a derivative of minūtus, the past participle of minuere “to reduce in size, lessen.” From the same root min-, Latin also has the words minor “smaller in size or kind” (English minor), minus “a smaller number” (English minus), minimus “smallest, least” (English minimum and minimal), and minusculus “rather small, pretty small” (English minuscule). Minutiae entered English in the mid-18th century.
In my preceding chapters I have tried, by going into the minutiae of the science of piloting, to carry the reader step by step to a comprehension of what the science consists of ….
In a thank-you note to his devotees that he tweeted last week, the congressman offered a similar lulling density of minutiae.
The rare adjective erumpent, used almost exclusively in biology, comes straight from Latin ērumpēns (stem ērumpent-), the present participle of ērumpere “to burst forth.” The compound verb ērumpere is composed of the prefix ē– (a variant of ex– “out, out of”) and the simple verb rumpere “to break,” whose past participle ruptus forms the much more common derivative erupt. Erumpent entered English in the mid-17th century.
… on his head—pressing down his erumpent red hair—the vaguely Westernish broad-brimmed hat that signalled his difference from other philosophers (as if any such signal were needed) ….
Minutes passed, sun-bathed, as they crossed a stretch of open land; the river slowed, the valley wider, furrowed fields flanking the highway, an erumpent green from rich black soil.
a person with an enthusiastic interest in words and language; a logophile: a new board game that will appeal to wordies of all ages.
Wordie in the sense “someone with an enthusiasm for words,” is relatively recent. There is also an older sense, “a little, wee word,” Scottish, dating from the first half of the 18th century and used by Robert Burns.
Eric has been a wordie since he was a kid growing up in New York City, a Games magazine acolyte who read the dictionary for fun and subscribes to Word Ways: The Journal of Recreational Linguistics …
As a teacher of English, a part-time poet and a full-time wordie, I took genuine delight in Patricia T. O’Conner’s review of books about language by Ben Yagoda and David Crystal ….
shamefully wicked, as persons, actions, or times.
English flagitious ultimately comes from the Latin adjective flāgitiōsus, “shameful, shocking,” a derivative of the noun flāgitium, a very strong word in Latin meaning “a public demonstration of disapproval outside someone’s house, an offense against decency, disgrace, infamy,” is often applied to sexual misconduct, and even worse, to violations against military discipline. Flāgitium is related to flāgitāre “to press someone with demands, importune, dun (a debtor), summon someone to trial.” Flāgitāre in its turn is probably related to the noun flagrum “a whip, lash, flail (for punishment).” The Latin root flag– is also the source of flagellum “a whip,” flagellāre “to whip,” from which English derives flagellate, flagellant, and flagellation. Flagitious entered English in the 14th century.
… his faith is pure, though his manners are flagitious.
He should have persisted in gloom, which would eventually earn a commercial reward that outran the avarice of his most flagitious villains.
sought out with care.
The adjective recherché “carefully sought out, rare, exotic, obscure, elegant, pretentious,” comes straight from French recherché, the past participle of the verb rechercher “to look for carefully, research.” The prefix re– in rechercher indicates repetition; the verb chercher “to look for,” comes from Late Latin circāre “to go around,” a derivation of circus “circle.” (English search comes from Old French cerchier, French chercher.) Recherché entered English in the 17th century.
… a tasteful and récherché stock of frames and feathers and ribbons was chosen ….
But, among the books which load their shelves, there is the most recherché collection of European standard works to be found in this country ….
imperturbable self-possession, poise, or assurance.
The English adjective aplomb is from the French noun aplomb “self-possession,” literally “perpendicularity,” from the Old French phrase a plomb “perpendicularly,” literally “according to the lead weight,” from Latin ad “at, to” and plumbum “lead.” Aplomb entered English in the first half of the 19th century.
… I had found that in entering with aplomb, and mounting the estrade with emphasis, consisted the grand secret of ensuring immediate silence.
Whether he was coached in the art of transcendental stillness by his mother, whose acting career is not long over, has yet to be revealed, but he performed his task with aplomb.