In fairy tales, always watch out for the cunning fox or the cunning witch. Cunning means clever, in the sense of trickery. A cunning plan might involve setting traps for the innocent and pure at heart to fall into.

  • Pronunciation: /'kʌnɪŋ/
  • English Description: quick or skillful or adept in action or thought
  • Chinese Translation: 狡猾的(jiao3 hua2 de)
  • Spanish Translation: astuto
  • STORY: This adjective goes back to the 14th century English verb cunnen, which meant "to know," and is actually related to our English verb know. In earlier times, the noun was used to mean a high level of skill in using the hands. You can be cunning, but you can also use your cunning to figure out a very clever and tricky plan.


  • It was, you could say, a cunning plan.
  • She’s quirky and cunning, Malinsky said, and has a commanding presence.

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