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Circa 1600, from French conniver, from Latin connīveō ‎(wink), or directly from Latin, from com- ‎(together) + base akin to nictō ‎(I wink), from Proto-Indo-European *knei-gwh- ‎(to bend).[1] See also English nictate ‎(to wink), from same Latin base.

Sense comes from extension of “to wink” into “to wink (at a crime), to be privy”.


connive ‎(third-person singular simple present connives, present participle conniving, simple past and past participle connived)

  1. to cooperate with others secretly in order to commit a crime; to collude
  2. to plot or scheme
  3. to pretend to be ignorant of something in order to escape blame; to ignore a fault deliberately
    • Jeremy Taylor
      to connive at what it does not approve
    • Burke
      In many of these, the directors were heartily concurring; in most of them, they were encouraging, and sometimes commanding; in all they were conniving.
    • Macaulay
      The government thought it expedient, occasionally, to connive at the violation of this rule.
  4. (archaic) To open and close the eyes rapidly; to wink.
    • Spectator
      The artist is to teach them how to nod judiciously, and to connive with either eye.
  5. to be a wench

Related terms[edit]



  1. ^ connive” in Douglas Harper, Online Etymology Dictionary (2001).




  1. second-person singular present active imperative of connīveō