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See also: cânt, çant, can't, ca'n't, and Cant.



Etymology 1[edit]

From Latin cantō probably via Old Northern French canter (sing, tell). Doublet of chant.


cant (usually uncountable, plural cants)

  1. (countable) An argot, the jargon of a particular class or subgroup.
    Synonyms: argot, jargon, slang
    He had the look of a prince, but the cant of a fishmonger.
    • 1836, Three discourses preached before the Congregational Society in Watertown, page 65
      I am aware that the phrase free inquiry has become too much a cant phrase soiled by the handling of the ignorant and the reckless by those who fall into the mistake of supposing that religion has its root in the understanding and by those who can see just far enough to doubt and no further.
  2. (countable, uncountable) A private or secret language used by a religious sect, gang, or other group.
    Synonyms: argot, jargon, slang
  3. language spoken by some Irish Travellers; Shelta.
  4. (uncountable, derogatory) Empty, hypocritical talk.
    People claim to care about the poor of Africa, but it is largely cant.
  5. (uncountable) Whining speech, such as that used by beggars.
  6. (countable, heraldry) A blazon of a coat of arms that makes a pun upon the name (or, less often, some attribute or function) of the bearer, canting arms.
  7. (obsolete) A call for bidders at a public fair; an auction.
    • Jonathan Swift
      To sell their leases by cant.
Related terms[edit]


cant (third-person singular simple present cants, present participle canting, simple past and past participle canted)

  1. (intransitive) To speak with the jargon of a class or subgroup.
    • Ben Jonson
      The doctor here, / When he discourseth of dissection, / Of vena cava and of vena porta, / The meseraeum and the mesentericum, / What does he else but cant?
    • Bishop Sanderson
      that uncouth affected garb of speech, or canting language, if I may so call it
  2. (intransitive) To speak in set phrases.
  3. (intransitive) To preach in a singsong fashion, especially in a false or empty manner.
    • Beaumont and Fletcher
      the rankest rogue that ever canted
    • 1765, Catherine Jemmat, The Memoirs of Mrs. Catherine Jemmat, Daughter of the Late Admiral Yeo, of Plymouth. Written by Herself, volume I, 2nd edition, London: Printed for the author, at Charing-Cross, OCLC 316667080, page 145:
      [S]he was one of your ſoft ſpoken, canting, whining hypocrites, who with a truly jeſuitical art, could wreſt evil out of the moſt inoffenſive thought, word, look or action; []
  4. (intransitive, heraldry) Of a blazon, to make a pun that references the bearer of a coat of arms.
  5. (obsolete) To sell by auction, or bid at an auction.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Jonathan Swift to this entry?)

Part or all of this entry has been imported from the 1913 edition of Webster’s Dictionary, which is now free of copyright and hence in the public domain. The imported definitions may be significantly out of date, and any more recent senses may be completely missing.
(See the entry for cant in
Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, G. & C. Merriam, 1913.)

See also[edit]

Etymology 2[edit]

From Middle English cant (edge, brink), from Middle Dutch cant (point, side, edge) (Modern Dutch kant (side, edge)), ultimately of Celtic or Latin origin. Related to Medieval Latin cantus (corner, side), from Latin canthus.


cant (plural cants)

  1. (obsolete) Side, edge, corner, niche.
    Under the cant of a hill.
    • Ben Jonson
      The first and principal person in the temple was Irene, or Peace; she was placed aloft in a cant.
  2. Slope, the angle at which something is set.
  3. A corner (of a building).
    Synonym: corner
  4. An outer or external angle.
  5. An inclination from a horizontal or vertical line; a slope or bevel; a tilt.
    Synonyms: bevel, slope, tilt
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Totten to this entry?)
  6. A movement or throw that overturns something.
    • 1830, The Edinburgh Encyclopedia, volume 3, page 621
      It is not only of great service in keeping the boat in her due position on the sea, but also in creating a tendency immediately to recover from any sudden cant, or lurch, from a heavy wave; and it is besides beneficial in diminishing the violence of beating against the sides of the vessel which she may go to relieve.
  7. A sudden thrust, push, kick, or other impulse, producing a bias or change of direction; also, the bias or turn so given.
    to give a ball a cant
  8. (coopering) A segment forming a side piece in the head of a cask.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Knight to this entry?)
  9. A segment of the rim of a wooden cogwheel.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Knight to this entry?)
  10. (nautical) A piece of wood laid upon the deck of a vessel to support the bulkheads.
Related terms[edit]


cant (third-person singular simple present cants, present participle canting, simple past and past participle canted)

  1. (transitive) To set (something) at an angle.
    to cant a cask; to cant a ship
  2. (transitive) To give a sudden turn or new direction to.
    to cant round a stick of timber; to cant a football
  3. (transitive) To bevel an edge or corner.
  4. (transitive) To overturn so that the contents are emptied.

Etymology 3[edit]

EB1911 - Volume 01 - Page 001 - 1.svg This entry lacks etymological information. If you are familiar with the origin of this term, please add it to the page per etymology instructions. You can also discuss it at the Etymology scriptorium.


cant (third-person singular simple present cants, present participle canting, simple past and past participle canted)

  1. (transitive) To divide or parcel out.

Etymology 4[edit]

From Middle English, presumably from Middle Low German *kant

Alternative forms[edit]


cant (not comparable)

  1. (Britain, dialectal) lively, lusty.

Further reading[edit]




From Old Occitan cant, from Latin cantus.


cant m (plural cants)

  1. song


Related terms[edit]



cant m (invariable)

  1. Apocopic form of canto



Etymology 1[edit]

From Proto-Brythonic *kant, from Proto-Celtic *kantom, from Proto-Indo-European *ḱm̥tóm.


cant m (plural cannoedd)

  1. hundred
  2. century
Derived terms[edit]

Etymology 2[edit]

Middle Welsh, from Proto-Celtic *canto, *kantho (rim, border, circumference), possibly from Proto-Indo-European *kantho. Related to Breton kant (circle), Old Irish cétad (round seat).


cant m (plural cantau)

  1. hoop
  2. rim


Welsh mutation
radical soft nasal aspirate
cant gant nghant chant
Note: Some of these forms may be hypothetical. Not every
possible mutated form of every word actually occurs.