Etymology 1 edit
From Middle English cunning, kunning, konnyng, alteration of earlier Middle English cunninde, kunnende, cunnand, from Old English cunnende, present participle of cunnan (“to know how to, be able to”), equivalent to con + -ing. Cognate with Scots cunnand (“cunning”), German könnend (“able to do”), Icelandic kunnandi (“cunning”). More at con, can.
- Sly; crafty; clever in surreptitious behaviour.
- Synonyms: see Thesaurus:wily
- (obsolete) Skillful, artful.
- c. 1601–1602 (date written), William Shakespeare, “Twelfe Night, or What You Will”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies […] (First Folio), London: […] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, →OCLC, [Act I, scene v]:
- Tis beauty truly blent, whose red and white / Nature's own sweet and cunning hand laid on.
- (obsolete) Wrought with, or exhibiting, skill or ingenuity; ingenious.
- cunning work
- (US, colloquial, dated) Cute, appealing.
- 1857, Barbara H. Channing, The Sisters Abroad, Or, an Italian Journey:
- everybody gives something to the cunning little boy; his eyes are large and soft, and he wears a pointed hat, and tight breeches, and jacket
Derived terms edit
- The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.
Etymology 2 edit
From Middle English cunning, kunnyng, partially from Old English *cunning (verbal noun), from Old English 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.
- Practical knowledge or experience; aptitude in performance; skill, proficiency; dexterity.
- 2005, Plato, translated by Lesley Brown, Sophist, page 236d:
- indeed at this very moment he's slipped away with the utmost cunning into a form that's most perplexing to investigate.
- Practical skill employed in a secret or crafty manner; craft; artifice; skillful deceit; art or magic.
- 1610–1611 (date written), William Shakespeare, “The Tempest”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies […] (First Folio), London: […] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, →OCLC, [Act III, scene ii]:
- Caliban: As I told thee before, I am subject to a tyrant, a sorcerer that by his cunning hath cheated me of the island.
- The disposition to employ one's skill in an artful manner; craftiness; guile; artifice; skill of being cunning, sly, conniving, or deceitful.
- The natural wit or instincts of an animal.
- the cunning of the fox or hare
- (obsolete) Knowledge; learning; special knowledge (sometimes implying occult or magical knowledge).
Derived terms edit