9 Grammatical Pitfalls


[kan-ee] /ˈkæn i/
adjective, cannier, canniest.
careful; cautious; prudent:
a canny reply.
astute; shrewd; knowing; sagacious:
a canny negotiator.
skilled; expert.
frugal; thrifty:
a canny housewife.
  1. safe to deal with, invest in, or work at (usually used with a negative).
  2. gentle; careful; steady.
  3. snug; cozy; comfortable.
  4. pleasing; attractive.
  5. Archaic. having supernatural or occult powers.
adverb, Also, cannily
in a canny manner.
Scot. carefully; cautiously.
Origin of canny
1630-40; can1 + -y1
Related forms
canniness, noun
overcanny, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for canny
  • Usually my fellow runners are clever if not intellectual, canny if not bookish.
  • He has found some canny ways to tempt them to settle.
  • He has proved that he can still play trumpet with the ghostly tone and canny timing that established him in the jazz pantheon.
  • Felicity not only has perfect foresight, she has also been canny enough to dodge taxes.
  • His is playing that has temperament, poetry, a canny use of coloristic resource and an extraordinary empathy with the audience.
  • The fear must be that more openness means fewer opportunities for canny trading, and lower margins.
  • canny traders have found a lucrative new strategy: sell a firm's stock short and then spread rumours about its accounts.
  • It has proved to be a canny investor, spotting opportunities and frequently turning a sizable profit on its investments.
  • But his failure to transcend party politics does not mean it was not canny to try.
  • canny governments can work with the grain of this psychology.
British Dictionary definitions for canny


adjective -nier, -niest
shrewd, esp in business; astute or wary; knowing
(Scot & Northeast English, dialect) good or nice: used as a general term of approval
(Scot) lucky or fortunate
(Scot & Northeast English, dialect) quite; rather: a canny long while
Derived Forms
cannily, adverb
canniness, noun
Word Origin
C16: from can1 (in the sense: to know how) + -y1
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
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Word Origin and History for canny

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
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