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Webster 1913 Edition


Cunning

Cun′ning

(kŭn′nĭng)
,
Adj.
[AS.
cunnan
to know, to be able. See 1st
Con
,
Can
.]
1.
Knowing; skillful; dexterous.
“A cunning workman.”
Ex. xxxviii. 23.
“Tis beauty truly blent, whose red and white
Nature’s own sweet and
cunning
hand laid on.
Shakespeare
Esau was a
cunning
hunter.
Gen xxv. 27.
2.
Wrought with, or exhibiting, skill or ingenuity; ingenious; curious;
as,
cunning
work
.
Over them Arachne high did lift
Her
cunning
web.
Spenser.
3.
Crafty; sly; artful; designing; deceitful.
They are resolved to be
cunning
; let others run the hazard of being sincere.
South.
Syn.
Cunning
,
Artful
,
Sly
,
Wily
,
Crafty
.
These epithets agree in expressing an aptitude for attaining some end by peculiar and secret means. Cunning is usually low; as, a cunning trick. Artful is more ingenious and inventive; as, an artful device. Sly implies a turn for what is double or concealed; as, sly humor; a sly evasion. Crafty denotes a talent for dexterously deceiving; as, a crafty manager. Wily describes a talent for the use of stratagems; as, a wily politician. A cunning man often shows his dexterity in simply concealing. An artful man goes further, and exerts his ingenuity in misleading. A crafty man mingles cunning with art, and so shapes his actions as to lull suspicions. The young may be cunning, but the experienced only can be crafty. Slyness is a vulgar kind of cunning; the sly man goes cautiously and silently to work. Wiliness is a species of cunning or craft applicable only to cases of attack and defense.”
Crabb.

Cun′ning

,
Noun.
[AS.
cunnung
trial, or Icel.
kunnandi
knowledge. See
Cunning
,
Adj.
]
1.
Knowledge; art; skill; dexterity.
[Archaic]
Let my right hand forget her
cunning
.
Ps. cxxxvii. 5.
A carpenter's desert
Stands more in
cunning
than in power.
Chapman.
2.
The faculty or act of using stratagem to accomplish a purpose; fraudulent skill or dexterity; deceit; craft.
Discourage
cunning
in a child;
cunning
is the ape of wisdom.
Locke.
We take
cunning
for a sinister or crooked wisdom.
Bacon.

Webster 1828 Edition


Cunning

CUNNING

,
Adj.
[G. See Can.]
1.
Knowing; skillful; experienced; well-instructed. It is applied to all kinds of knowledge, but generally and appropriately, to the skill and dexterity of artificers, or the knowledge acquired by experience.
Esau was a cunning hunter. Genesis 23.
I will take away the cunning artificer. Isaiah 3.
A cunning workman. Exodus 38.
2.
Wrought with skill; curious; ingenious.
With cherubs of cunning work shalt thou make them. Exodus 26.
[The foregoing senses occur frequently in our version of the scriptures, but are nearly or quite obsolete.]
3.
Artful; shrewd; sly; crafty; astute; designing; as a cunning fellow.
They are resolved to be cunning; let others run the hazard of being sincere.
In this sense, the purpose or final end of the person may not be illaudalbe; but cunning implies the use of artifice to accomplish the purpose, rather than open, candid, or direct means. Hence,
4.
Deceitful; trickish; employing stratagems for a bad purpose.
5.
Assumed with subtilty; artful.
Accounting his integrity to be but a cunning face of falsehood.

CUNNING

,
Noun.
1.
Knowledge; art; skill; dexterity.
Let my right hand forget her cunning. Psalm 137.
2.
Art; artifice; artfulness; craft; shrewdness; the faculty or act of using stratagem to accomplish a purpose. Hence in a bad sense, deceitfulness or deceit; fraudulent skill or dexterity.
Discourage cunning in a child; cunning is the ape of wisdom.

Definition 2023


cunning

cunning

English

Adjective

cunning (comparative more cunning, superlative most cunning)

  1. Sly; crafty; clever in surreptitious behaviour.
    • South
      They are resolved to be cunning; let others run the hazard of being sincere.
  2. (obsolete) Skillful, artful.
    • Bible, Genesis xxv. 27
      Esau was a cunning hunter.
    • Bible, Exodus xxxviii. 23
      a cunning workman
    • Shakespeare
      Tis beauty truly blent, whose red and white / Nature's own sweet and cunning hand laid on.
  3. (obsolete) Wrought with, or exibiting, skill or ingenuity; ingenious.
    cunning work
    • Spenser
      Over them Arachne high did lift / Her cunning web.
  4. (US, colloquial, rare) Cute, appealing.
    a cunning little boy
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Bartlett to this entry?)
Synonyms
  • See also Wikisaurus:wily
Translations

Etymology 2

From Middle English cunning, kunnyng, partially from Old English *cunning (verbal noun), from cunnan (to know how to, be able to); partially from Old English cunnung (knowledge, trial, probation, experience, contact, carnal knowledge), from cunnian (to search into, try, test, seek for, explore, investigate, experience, have experience of, to make trial of, know), equivalent to con + -ing.

Noun

cunning (countable and uncountable, plural cunnings)

  1. Practical knowledge or experience; aptitude in performance; skill, proficiency; dexterity.
    • 2005, Plato, Sophist. Translation by Lesley Brown. 236d.
      indeed at this very moment he's slipped away with the utmost cunning into a form that's most perplexing to investigate.
  2. Practical skill employed in a secret or crafty manner; craft; artifice; skillful deceit.
  3. The disposition to employ one's skill in an artful manner; craftiness; guile; artifice; skill of being cunning, sly, conniving, or deceitful.
  4. The natural wit or instincts of an animal.
    the cunning of the fox or hare
  5. (obsolete) Knowledge; learning; special knowledge (sometimes implying occult or magical knowledge).
Synonyms
Translations