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[kuhn-ing] /ˈkʌn ɪŋ/
skill employed in a shrewd or sly manner, as in deceiving; craftiness; guile.
adeptness in performance; dexterity:
The weaver's hand lost its cunning.
showing or made with ingenuity.
artfully subtle or shrewd; crafty; sly.
Informal. charmingly cute or appealing:
a cunning little baby.
Archaic. skillful; expert.
Obsolete. present participle of can1 .
Origin of cunning
1275-1325; (noun) Middle English; Old English cunnung, equivalent to cunn(an) to know (see can1) + -ung -ing1; (adj., v.) Middle English, present participle of cunnan to know (see can1, -ing2)
Related forms
cunningly, adverb
cunningness, noun
overcunning, adjective
overcunningly, adverb
overcunningness, noun
quasi-cunning, adjective
quasi-cunningly, adverb
1. shrewdness, artfulness, wiliness, trickery, finesse, intrigue, slyness, deception. Cunning, artifice, craft imply an inclination toward deceit, slyness, and trickery. Cunning implies a shrewd, often instinctive skill in concealing or disguising the real purposes of one's actions: not intelligence but a low kind of cunning. An artifice is a clever, unscrupulous ruse, used to mislead others: a successful artifice to conceal one's motives. Craft suggests underhand methods and the use of deceptive devices and tricks to attain one's ends: craft and deceitfulness in every act. 2. adroitness. 3. ingenious, skillful. 4. artful, wily, tricky, foxy. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for cunningly
  • Maybe that is what keeps your bosses working more and more cunningly.
  • cunningly designed sliding tracks keep the support pressure constant, no matter how the chair moves.
  • The temptation when reviewing his works, of course, is to imitate him cunningly.
  • Flashily theatrical, yet cunningly thought out and wrought, his wildly varied works make a knockout display.
  • As he became sicker and sicker, he hid the severity of his problem more cunningly from everyone but his family and close friends.
  • Besides, its contours are so cunningly contrived that there's no telling where nature ends and art begins.
  • The apple was so cunningly made that only the red cheek was poisoned.
  • cunningly placed lights raise the whole elaborate show to the highest point of brilliance.
  • The film is an utter delight, a tidal surge of joyful nostalgia cunningly repackaged and updated.
  • Well, my end-year piece cunningly avoided any numerical predictions, a luxury denied the investment bank strategists.
British Dictionary definitions for cunningly


crafty and shrewd, esp in deception; sly: cunning as a fox
made with or showing skill or cleverness; ingenious
craftiness, esp in deceiving; slyness
cleverness, skill, or ingenuity
Derived Forms
cunningly, adverb
cunningness, noun
Word Origin
Old English cunnende; related to cunnan to know (see can1), cunnian to test, experience, Old Norse kunna to know
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 cunningly



early 14c., "learned, skillful," present participle of cunnen "to know" (see can (v.1)). Sense of "skillfully deceitful" is probably late 14c. As a noun from c.1300. Related: Cunningly.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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