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 dialectal könnend (“cunning”), Icelandic kunnandi (“cunning”). More at con, can.
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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.
cunning (plural cunnings)
- (obsolete) Knowledge; learning; special knowledge (sometimes implying occult or magical knowledge).
- Practical knowledge or experience; aptitude in performance; skill, proficiency; dexterity.
- Practical skill employed in a secret or crafty manner; craft; artifice; skillful deceit.
- 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