Meaning of CUNNING in English


I. cun ‧ ning 1 /ˈkʌnɪŋ/ BrE AmE adjective

[ Date: 1200-1300 ; Origin: Present participle of cun 'to know' , an early form of can ; ⇨ ↑ can 1 ]

1 . someone who is cunning is clever and good at deceiving people in order to get what they want SYN crafty :

a cunning opponent

2 . behaviour or actions that are cunning are clever but dishonest and unfair, and are used to get what you want:

a cunning plan

3 . a cunning object or piece of equipment is clever and unusual:

a cunning little device for keeping out draughts

4 . American English old-fashioned attractive:

a cunning little dress

—cunningly adverb

• • •


▪ intelligent having a high level of mental ability, and good at thinking clearly and understanding ideas:

The top universities aim to select the most intelligent students.

▪ clever especially British English , smart especially American English intelligent, so that you can think and learn quickly and find ways to solve problems:

That was very clever of you. How did you do that?


I wasn’t smart enough to be a lawyer.

▪ bright intelligent – used especially about children and young people:

He’s a very bright kid.


the brightest student in the class

▪ brilliant extremely intelligent and good at the work you do:

a brilliant scientist

▪ gifted a gifted child is much more intelligent than most other children:

a special school for gifted children

▪ wise able to make good decisions and give sensible advice, especially because you have a lot of experience:

a wise old man

▪ cunning/crafty good at using your intelligence to get what you want, often by making secret plans or tricking people:

She was cunning enough to keep this latest piece of information secret.


He’s a crafty old devil!

▪ brainy informal intelligent and good at studying:

My sister is the brainy one in our family.

II. cunning 2 BrE AmE noun [uncountable]

the ability to achieve what you want by deceiving people in a clever way:

the tiger’s ferocity and cunning

She would use low cunning (=unpleasant dishonest methods) to win people’s sympathy.

Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English.      Longman - Словарь современного английского языка.