Definition of canny in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈkani/

adjective (cannier, canniest)

1Having or showing shrewdness and good judgement, especially in money or business matters: canny investors will switch banks if they think they are getting a raw deal
More example sentences
  • Scotland has a reputation for canny money management, and frequently outsmarts London's high-flyers.
  • The canny acumen of business donors leads to inevitable speculation about the tax breaks linked to such donations.
  • In the main, newspaper photographers are very canny with their money, and he was no exception.
shrewd, astute, sharp, sharp-witted, discerning, acute, penetrating, discriminating, perceptive, perspicacious, clever, intelligent, wise, sagacious, sensible, judicious, circumspect, careful, prudent, cautious;
cunning, crafty, wily, artful, calculating
informal on the ball, smart, savvy
British informal suss, sussed
Scottish & Northern English informal pawky
North American informal heads-up, as sharp as a tack, whip-smart
rare long-headed, sapient, argute
2Northern English & Scottish Pleasant; nice: she’s a canny lass



Pronunciation: /ˈkanɪli/
Example sentences
  • Eyeing the city's economic future, the Giuliani administration cannily looked to transform the Far West Side into Gotham's next major business district and shortly before leaving office came up with a master plan for how to do it.
  • As Richard Schickel cannily wrote: ‘He does not exhibit the born actor's relish at playing a heel.’
  • But as boss of Securitas for 13 years, he has cannily plotted the group's growth by acquisition, first across Europe, then through America, doing things his own idiosyncratic way.


Pronunciation: /ˈkanɪnəs/
Example sentences
  • At the same time, the political invulnerability of the Liberal party has, rightly or wrongly, almost universally been attributed to the political canniness of ‘Teflon John’.
  • One reason for our immense success is the canniness of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service that only allowed highly educated Indians into the country.
  • Now she oversaw the poet's legacy with canniness and care.


Late 16th century (originally Scots): from can1 (in the obsolete sense 'know') + -y1.

  • uncanny from late 16th century:

    The Scots originally used uncanny, just as they did its positive equivalent canny, ‘shrewd, cautious’, ‘clever’ or ‘nice, pleasant’. Uncanny has always had overtones of the occult, and originally implied ‘malignant or malicious’, but during the 19th century the word left Scotland to develop its usual modern meaning ‘mysterious, weird, strange’.

Words that rhyme with canny

Annie, ca'canny, cranny, Danny, granny, nanny, tranny

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: canny

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