Cunning vs. Cleverness: What's the Difference?
Skill in achieving goals through deceit or evasion. Intellectual quickness and adaptability.
Cunning is often seen as a negative trait, typically associated with deceit, guile, or sly behavior. Cleverness, on the other hand, has a more positive connotation, relating to intellectual quickness and adaptability.
While both cunning and cleverness are forms of intelligence, they diverge in how they are commonly applied. Cunning is usually employed to manipulate others or situations, whereas cleverness is often used to solve problems or think creatively.
In terms of grammar, both words function mainly as nouns but can also serve as adjectives. For instance, one can say "his cunning tactics" or "her clever ideas."
Cunning tends to focus on achieving specific objectives, often at the expense of ethics. Cleverness is generally more ethical and is usually more about showcasing intellect rather than outsmarting someone through deceit.
Cunning often involves a narrow focus and a zero-sum game mindset, where one's gain is someone else's loss. Cleverness, on the other hand, can lead to solutions that benefit multiple parties.
Skill in deceit or evasion.
Mainly a noun, also an adjective.
Mainly a noun, also an adjective.
Achieving goals, often at others' expense.
Solving problems, often benefiting multiple parties.
Cunning and Cleverness Definitions
Skill in deceit.
His cunning in business made him ruthless but successful.
His cleverness in conversation made him the life of the party.
Ability to evade capture.
The fugitive's cunning kept him ahead of the police.
His cleverness produced an innovative solution to the issue.
Trickery or guile.
The fox used cunning to escape the trap.
Her cleverness quickly solved the puzzle.
Sly or crafty behavior.
Her cunning ways fooled everyone.
Ability to adapt.
The cleverness of the team led to a last-minute victory.
Marked by or given to artful subtlety and deceptiveness.
Skill in problem-solving.
The detective's cleverness helped crack the case.
Executed with or exhibiting ingenuity.
Mentally quick and original; bright
A clever student.
Delicately pleasing; pretty or cute
A cunning pet.
Skilled at accomplishing things, especially with the hands
A clever carpenter.
Skill in deception; guile.
"a hard-working kid who rose from poverty, only to be duped by rich, clever bankers" (Jeff Goodell).
Skill or adeptness in execution or performance; dexterity.
Exhibiting ingenuity or imagination; creative or artful
A clever experiment.
Sly; crafty; clever in surreptitious behaviour.
An evening of clever repartee.
(obsolete) Skillful, artful.
Characterized by cunning or shrewdness
Clever manipulation of public opinion.
(obsolete) Wrought with, or exhibiting, skill or ingenuity; ingenious.
New England Easily managed; docile
"Oxen must be pretty clever to be bossed around the way they are" (Dialect Notes).
Chiefly Southern US Good-natured; amiable.
Practical knowledge or experience; aptitude in performance; skill, proficiency; dexterity.
The property of being clever.
Practical skill employed in a secret or crafty manner; craft; artifice; skillful deceit; art or magic.
Something clever, or done cleverly.
The disposition to employ one's skill in an artful manner; craftiness; guile; artifice; skill of being cunning, sly, conniving, or deceitful.
The quality of being clever; skill; dexterity; adroitness.
The natural wit or instincts of an animal.
The cunning of the fox or hare
The power of creative imagination
(obsolete) Knowledge; learning; special knowledge (sometimes implying occult or magical knowledge).
Intelligence as manifested in being quick and witty
Knowing; skillful; dexterous.
"Tis beauty truly blent, whose red and whiteNature's own sweet and cunning hand laid on.
Esau was a cunning hunter.
The property of being ingenious;
A plot of great ingenuity
The cleverness of its design
Wrought with, or exhibiting, skill or ingenuity; ingenious; curious; as, cunning work.
Over them Arachne high did lift
Crafty; sly; artful; designing; deceitful.
They are resolved to be cunning; let others run the hazard of being sincere.
Pretty or pleasing; as, a cunning little boy.
Knowledge; art; skill; dexterity.
Let my right hand forget her cunning.
A carpenter's desertStands more in cunning than in power.
The faculty or act of using stratagem to accomplish a purpose; fraudulent skill or dexterity; deceit; craft.
Discourage cunning in a child; cunning is the ape of wisdom.
We take cunning for a sinister or crooked wisdom.
Shrewdness in deception;
As cunning as a fox
Shrewdness as demonstrated by being skilled in deception
Drafty artfulness (especially in deception)
Attractive especially by means of smallness or prettiness or quaintness;
A cute kid with pigtails
A cute little apartment
A cunning baby
Marked by skill in deception;
Cunning men often pass for wise
Deep political machinations
A foxy scheme
A slick evasive answer
Sly as a fox
A wily old attorney
Showing inventiveness and skill;
A clever gadget
The cunning maneuvers leading to his success
An ingenious solution to the problem
His cunning strategy won the game.
What is Cleverness?
Cleverness refers to intellectual quickness and adaptability.
Is Cleverness always ethical?
Generally, cleverness is considered more ethical than cunning but not always.
How are Cunning and Cleverness viewed socially?
Cunning is generally viewed negatively, while cleverness is seen as positive.
What is Cunning?
Cunning is the skill in achieving goals through deceit or evasion.
Can Cunning and Cleverness coexist?
Yes, a person can be both cunning and clever.
Can Cleverness be used for bad?
Yes, cleverness can be misused, although it generally has a positive connotation.
What's the primary goal of Cleverness?
The primary goal of cleverness is usually problem-solving or creative thinking.
Can Cleverness be a learned skill?
Cleverness can be honed through learning and experience.
Is Cunning a form of intelligence?
Yes, cunning is a form of social or situational intelligence.
What are the grammatical uses of Cunning and Cleverness?
Both function mainly as nouns but can also serve as adjectives.
Can Cunning be a learned skill?
Yes, people can learn to be cunning, although it's often innate.
What's the primary goal of Cunning?
The primary goal of cunning is often to manipulate for personal gain.
Can Cunning be used for good?
It's possible but rare; the term usually has negative connotations.
Do Cunning and Cleverness have opposite meanings?
No, they're both forms of intelligence but are applied differently.
How can Cunning and Cleverness be distinguished in action?
Cunning often involves deceit or manipulation, while cleverness is about intellectual prowess and problem-solving.
Written bySawaira Riaz
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