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.

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.

Definitions of cunning
  1. adjective
    showing inventiveness and skill
    “the cunning maneuvers leading to his success”
    synonyms: clever, ingenious
    quick or skillful or adept in action or thought
  2. adjective
    marked by skill in deception
    cunning men often pass for wise”
    synonyms: crafty, dodgy, foxy, guileful, knavish, slick, sly, tricksy, tricky, wily
    marked by skill in achieving a desired end especially with cunning or craft
  3. noun
    crafty artfulness (especially in deception)
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    type of:
    the quality of being adroit in taking unfair advantage
  4. noun
    shrewdness as demonstrated by being skilled in deception
    synonyms: craft, craftiness, foxiness, guile, slyness, wiliness
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    type of:
    astuteness, perspicaciousness, perspicacity, shrewdness
    intelligence manifested by being astute (as in business dealings)
  5. adjective
    attractive especially by means of smallness or prettiness or quaintness
    cunning kittens”
    “a cunning baby”
    synonyms: cute
    pleasing to the eye or mind especially through beauty or charm
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