[uncountable] the ability to achieve something by tricking or cheating other people in a clever way synonym craftiness It took energy and cunning just to survive. She used low cunning (= dishonest behaviour) to get what she wanted. Word Origin Middle English: perhaps from Old Norse kunnandi
‘knowledge’, from kunna ‘know’ (related to can), or perhaps from Middle English cunne, an obsolete variant of can. The original sense was ‘(possessing) great academic knowledge or skill’ and had no implication of deceit; the sense ‘deceitfulness’ dates from late Middle English.Extra examples He had used cunning to get what he wanted. She had great cunning and ruthlessness. She managed him with great cunning. She relied on her native cunning to survive. She used low cunning to get what she wanted.