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See also: Canny



Etymology 1[edit]

Northern English dialect, from can (to know)[1] (+ -y), from Middle English can, first and third person singular of cunnen, connen (to be able, know how to), from Old English cunnan (to know how to, be able to). Compare Scots canny, English cunny, Old English cann (knowledge, assertion). More at can, cunning.


canny (comparative cannier, superlative canniest)

  1. Careful, prudent, cautious.
    The politician gave a canny response to the reporter's questions.
  2. Knowing, shrewd, astute.
    The canny lawyer knew just how to get what he wanted.
    • 2005 May 8, Paul Harris, “How canny Paris turned into a global business brand”, in The Guardian[1]:
      ‘Paris Hilton is A-list. She's a genuinely really big star,’ said Professor Robert Thompson, a popular culture expert at Syracuse University. She's also a canny money-making machine.
    • 2022 March 29, Bret Stephens, “What if Putin Didn’t Miscalculate?”, in The New York Times[2], →ISSN:
      Then again, in war, politics and life, it’s always wiser to treat your adversary as a canny fox, not a crazy fool.
  3. Frugal, thrifty.
    Synonyms: see Thesaurus:frugal
    canny investments
    • 1751, Allan Ramsay, “The Gentle Shepherd”, in Poems by Allan Ramsay, published 1751:
      Whate'er he wins, I'll guide with canny care.
  4. (Scotland, Northumbria) Friendly, pleasant, fair, agreeable; (sometimes) funny.
    She's a canny lass hor like!
    • 1783, Robert Burns, “Green Grow the Rashes O”, in Songs and Ballads:
      But gie me a cannie hour at e'en,

      My arms about my dearie O;

      An' warl'y cares, an' warl'y men,

      Mae a' gae tapsalteerie O!
  5. (Scotland, Northumbria) Gentle, quiet, steady.
    a canny horse
    be canny with this letter
Usage notes[edit]

In common modern usage, canny and uncanny are no longer antonyms, although they are not synonyms.[2]

Derived terms[edit]
Related terms[edit]


canny (not comparable)

  1. (Northumbria) Very, considerably; quite, rather.
    That's a canny big horse, man!
    a canny long journey
    canny near home
  2. (Scotland, Northumbria) Gently, quietly; carefully, skilfully.
    he sits very canny
    drive canny
Derived terms[edit]


  • Frank Graham (1987) The New Geordie Dictionary, →ISBN
  • Newcastle 1970s, Scott Dobson and Dick Irwin, [3]
  • Northumberland Words, English Dialect Society, R. Oliver Heslop, 1893–4
  • Todd's Geordie Words and Phrases, George Todd, Newcastle, 1977[4]

Etymology 2[edit]

can (more or less cylindrical metal container) +‎ -y



  1. (especially of sound) Sounding as if it is coming through a tin can.
    • 1998 August 20, Kallel, Four speakers are a pain in the ass ;P, in 3dfx.products.voodoo2:
      The rear sounds sounded canny compared to the front ones. And you also have to adjust the volume so both pair of speakers are at the same level, []
    • 2000 October 17, Dreamin Man, “Lexicon MPX 100?”, in (Usenet):
      I am using the stereo outs, I am getting nice reverb out of it but the probelm[sic] is the entire sound is like i said like its coming through a can. even when in bypass mode it sound "canny".
      Thank you for your input.
    • 2001 October 8, Philippe, “Antwerp - what a disappointment !!!!”, in (Usenet):
      I was approch. 3 meters from the stage and the sound was very good from there. But if you had seats way up at the sides or at the back I can understand that you could have experienced a "canny" sound.
    • 2006 March 23, The Chris, “Re: Best Distortion Under $100”, in alt.guitar (Usenet):
      The metal zone is too 'canny'.... Boss has a handful of great distortions - DS-1, Mega Distortion, DS-2, Heavy Metal....
    • 2010 May 24,, “FlipHD Saturday SECTR5 LittleWing”, in alt.guitar (Usenet):
      Not bad.. Although I think the 290 might have a slight edge on video crispness, I think the audio is better on the ultra HD. Hear more low end, and slightly less canny sounding from what I can tell.



Alternative forms[edit]


From the verb can (to know), from Middle English can, first and third person singular of cunnen, connen (to be able, know how to), from Old English cunnan (to know how to, be able to).



canny (comparative mair canny, superlative maist canny)

  1. careful, cautious, prudent or steady
  2. comfortable, gentle or cozy
  3. attractive or pleasing
  4. skilful, safe to work or deal with
  5. fortunate, lucky
  6. frugal, sparing
  7. (archaic) with supernatural or occult powers


canny (comparative mair canny, superlative maist canny)

  1. carefully, cautiously

Related terms[edit]