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Cunning vs. Intelligent: What's the Difference?

Edited by Sumera Saeed || By Sawaira Riaz || Updated on September 28, 2023
Cunning involves being skillful in deception or manipulation, while intelligent refers to having a high ability to learn, understand, or reason.

Key Differences

Cunning and intelligent are terms often used to describe mental capabilities, but they have different connotations and applications. Cunning is typically used to describe a person who is skillful in achieving their goals, particularly through deception or manipulation. It often implies a certain slyness or craftiness in dealing with situations, where an individual uses trickery or deceit to get what they want. Intelligence, conversely, refers to the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills, and it is generally perceived as a positive attribute, indicating a capacity for learning, understanding, and reasoning.
Sawaira Riaz
Sep 28, 2023
Intelligent individuals usually exhibit a high degree of cognitive abilities, analytical thinking, and problem-solving skills. Being intelligent means having the ability to understand complex concepts, learn from experience, adapt to new situations, and engage in various forms of reasoning. Intelligence is measured in various ways, including IQ tests, and it’s associated with academic prowess, logical reasoning, and intellectual capacity. Cunning, however, does not necessarily involve high cognitive abilities or learning but is more about being shrewd and crafty in approach, often exploiting situations to one’s advantage.
Sawaira Riaz
Sep 28, 2023
Cunning and intelligence can coexist in an individual, but their applications and implications are distinctly different. A cunning person may use their wiles and astuteness to maneuver situations to their benefit, often through manipulative or deceptive means. They may possess a keen sense of observation and ability to exploit loopholes or weaknesses in systems. Intelligent people, on the other hand, may use their cognitive abilities, knowledge, and understanding to solve problems, make informed decisions, and contribute to knowledge and progress without the negative connotations associated with deceit or manipulation.
Sawaira Riaz
Sep 28, 2023
To delve deeper, cunning is often perceived with a sense of wariness due to its association with deceit and manipulation. It implies a form of street-smartness, allowing individuals to navigate situations with a focus on self-interest. Intelligence, however, is highly valued and sought after, representing a person's ability to think, learn, and solve problems, usually associated with ethical and moral standards. It is often indicative of one's potential to contribute positively to society, excel in academic and professional realms, and exhibit ethical and moral discernment.
Aimie Carlson
Sep 28, 2023
Lastly, while cunning is about being adept in deception to achieve one’s goals, being intelligent is about possessing a high mental capacity to learn, understand, and apply knowledge. Intelligence is a broader concept, related to cognitive abilities, learning capacity, and problem-solving skills, often used in a more positive and commendable context, while cunning is specifically associated with shrewdness and deception, often used in a context where morality is questionable.
Sawaira Riaz
Sep 28, 2023
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Comparison Chart

Connotation

Often negative, associated with deceit and manipulation
Positive, associated with high cognitive abilities and learning
Sawaira Riaz
Sep 28, 2023

Application

Achieving goals through trickery or exploiting situations
Solving problems, learning, and understanding complex concepts
Sawaira Riaz
Sep 28, 2023

Focus

Deception, manipulation, and self-interest
Cognitive abilities, knowledge acquisition, and reasoning
Sawaira Riaz
Sep 28, 2023

Perception

Viewed with wariness and associated with slyness
Highly valued and sought after, associated with moral discernment
Sara Rehman
Sep 28, 2023

Attributes

Astuteness, shrewdness, and craftiness
Analytical thinking, logical reasoning, and intellectual capacity
Sara Rehman
Sep 28, 2023
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Cunning and Intelligent Definitions

Cunning

Skillful in deception or manipulation.
The cunning fox tricked the crow into dropping the cheese.
Aimie Carlson
Sep 28, 2023

Intelligent

Marked by sound judgment and rational thinking.
His intelligent decisions saved the company from bankruptcy.
Sara Rehman
Sep 28, 2023

Cunning

Displaying keen insight in manipulating situations.
Her cunning observation allowed her to see the loophole in the system.
Sawaira Riaz
Sep 28, 2023

Intelligent

Possessing a high level of cognitive and intellectual capabilities.
The intelligent scientist made groundbreaking discoveries.
Sara Rehman
Sep 28, 2023

Cunning

Sly and deceptive in nature.
The cunning thief deceived the guards and slipped away.
Sawaira Riaz
Sep 28, 2023

Intelligent

Having a high ability to learn, understand, and apply knowledge.
The intelligent student solved the complex problem easily.
Sara Rehman
Sep 28, 2023

Cunning

Marked by craftiness and shrewdness.
His cunning mind devised a plan to escape unnoticed.
Sara Rehman
Sep 28, 2023

Intelligent

Capable of learning and adapting quickly.
The intelligent software adapts to users' preferences over time.
Sara Rehman
Sep 28, 2023

Cunning

Marked by or given to artful subtlety and deceptiveness.
Sawaira Riaz
Feb 09, 2023

Intelligent

Having intelligence
Is there intelligent life elsewhere in the galaxy?.
Sawaira Riaz
Feb 09, 2023

Cunning

Executed with or exhibiting ingenuity.
Sawaira Riaz
Feb 09, 2023

Intelligent

Having a high degree of intelligence; mentally acute
An intelligent student.
Sawaira Riaz
Feb 09, 2023

Cunning

Delicately pleasing; pretty or cute
A cunning pet.
Sawaira Riaz
Feb 09, 2023

Intelligent

Showing sound judgment and rationality
An intelligent decision.
An intelligent solution to the problem.
Sawaira Riaz
Feb 09, 2023

Cunning

Skill in deception; guile.
Sawaira Riaz
Feb 09, 2023

Intelligent

Appealing to the intellect; intellectual
A film with witty and intelligent dialogue.
Sawaira Riaz
Feb 09, 2023

Cunning

Skill or adeptness in execution or performance; dexterity.
Sawaira Riaz
Feb 09, 2023

Intelligent

Of high or especially quick cognitive capacity, bright.
Sawaira Riaz
Feb 09, 2023

Cunning

Sly; crafty; clever in surreptitious behaviour.
Sawaira Riaz
Feb 09, 2023

Intelligent

Well thought-out, well considered.
The engineer had a very intelligent design proposal for the new car.
The general devised an intelligent strategy for the southern campaign.
Sawaira Riaz
Feb 09, 2023

Cunning

(obsolete) Skillful, artful.
Sawaira Riaz
Feb 09, 2023

Intelligent

Characterized by thoughtful interaction.
My girlfriend and I had an intelligent conversation.
Sawaira Riaz
Feb 09, 2023

Cunning

(obsolete) Wrought with, or exhibiting, skill or ingenuity; ingenious.
Cunning work
Sawaira Riaz
Feb 09, 2023

Intelligent

Having at least a similar level of brain power to humankind.
The hunt for intelligent life.
Sawaira Riaz
Feb 09, 2023

Cunning

Cute, appealing.
Sawaira Riaz
Feb 09, 2023

Intelligent

Having an environment-sensing automatically-invoked built-in computer capability.
An intelligent network or keyboard
Sawaira Riaz
Feb 09, 2023

Cunning

Practical knowledge or experience; aptitude in performance; skill, proficiency; dexterity.
Sawaira Riaz
Feb 09, 2023

Intelligent

Endowed with the faculty of understanding or reason; as, man is an intelligent being.
Sawaira Riaz
Feb 09, 2023

Cunning

Practical skill employed in a secret or crafty manner; craft; artifice; skillful deceit; art or magic.
Sawaira Riaz
Feb 09, 2023

Intelligent

Possessed of a high level of intelligence, education, or judgment; knowing; sensible; skilled; exhibiting high intelligence; as, an intelligent young man; an intelligent architect; an intelligent answer.
Sawaira Riaz
Feb 09, 2023

Cunning

The disposition to employ one's skill in an artful manner; craftiness; guile; artifice; skill of being cunning, sly, conniving, or deceitful.
Sawaira Riaz
Feb 09, 2023

Intelligent

Cognizant; aware; communicative.
Intelligent of seasons.
Which are to France the spies and speculationsIntelligent of our state.
Sawaira Riaz
Feb 09, 2023

Cunning

The natural wit or instincts of an animal.
The cunning of the fox or hare
Sawaira Riaz
Feb 09, 2023

Intelligent

Having the capacity for thought and reason especially to a high degree;
Is there intelligent life in the universe?
An intelligent question
Sawaira Riaz
Feb 09, 2023

Cunning

(obsolete) Knowledge; learning; special knowledge (sometimes implying occult or magical knowledge).
Sawaira Riaz
Feb 09, 2023

Intelligent

Possessing sound knowledge;
Well-informed readers
Sawaira Riaz
Feb 09, 2023

Cunning

Knowing; skillful; dexterous.
"Tis beauty truly blent, whose red and whiteNature's own sweet and cunning hand laid on.
Esau was a cunning hunter.
Sawaira Riaz
Feb 09, 2023

Intelligent

Exercising or showing good judgment;
Healthy scepticism
A healthy fear of rattlesnakes
The healthy attitude of French laws
Healthy relations between labor and management
An intelligent solution
A sound approach to the problem
Sound advice
No sound explanation for his decision
Sawaira Riaz
Feb 09, 2023

Cunning

Wrought with, or exhibiting, skill or ingenuity; ingenious; curious; as, cunning work.
Over them Arachne high did lift
Sawaira Riaz
Feb 09, 2023

Intelligent

Endowed with the capacity to reason
Sawaira Riaz
Feb 09, 2023

Cunning

Crafty; sly; artful; designing; deceitful.
They are resolved to be cunning; let others run the hazard of being sincere.
Sawaira Riaz
Feb 09, 2023

Intelligent

Exhibiting the capacity for abstract thought and reasoning.
The intelligent philosopher proposed new theories about existence.
Janet White
Sep 28, 2023

Cunning

Pretty or pleasing; as, a cunning little boy.
Sawaira Riaz
Feb 09, 2023

Cunning

Knowledge; art; skill; dexterity.
Let my right hand forget her cunning.
A carpenter's desertStands more in cunning than in power.
Sawaira Riaz
Feb 09, 2023

Cunning

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.
Sawaira Riaz
Feb 09, 2023

Cunning

Shrewdness in deception;
As cunning as a fox
Sawaira Riaz
Feb 09, 2023

Cunning

Shrewdness as demonstrated by being skilled in deception
Sawaira Riaz
Feb 09, 2023

Cunning

Drafty artfulness (especially in deception)
Sawaira Riaz
Feb 09, 2023

Cunning

Attractive especially by means of smallness or prettiness or quaintness;
A cute kid with pigtails
A cute little apartment
Cunning kittens
A cunning baby
Sawaira Riaz
Feb 09, 2023

Cunning

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
Tricky Dik
A wily old attorney
Sawaira Riaz
Feb 09, 2023

Cunning

Showing inventiveness and skill;
A clever gadget
The cunning maneuvers leading to his success
An ingenious solution to the problem
Sawaira Riaz
Feb 09, 2023

Cunning

Clever and resourceful in exploiting situations to one’s advantage.
With cunning strategy, he won the game effortlessly.
Janet White
Sep 28, 2023

FAQs

Can an intelligent person be cunning?

Yes, an intelligent person can be cunning, but the two traits are distinct.
Sawaira Riaz
Sep 28, 2023

Can cunning be perceived as street-smartness?

Yes, cunning can imply a form of street-smartness, adept in maneuvering situations.
Aimie Carlson
Sep 28, 2023

Does being intelligent mean being knowledgeable?

Not necessarily. Intelligence is the ability to acquire and apply knowledge, but it doesn’t equate to being knowledgeable.
Sawaira Riaz
Sep 28, 2023

Are cunning and intelligent synonymous?

No, cunning implies craftiness and deception, while intelligent implies high learning and reasoning abilities.
Sawaira Riaz
Sep 28, 2023

Is intelligence measurable?

Yes, through various means like IQ tests, but they only capture specific aspects of intelligence.
Sawaira Riaz
Sep 28, 2023

Can cunning strategies be effective?

Yes, cunning strategies can be effective in achieving goals, especially through deception and manipulation.
Sawaira Riaz
Sep 28, 2023

Is cunning always negative?

Often, as it usually implies deception or manipulation for self-interest.
Sawaira Riaz
Sep 28, 2023

Is intelligence innate?

It's debated, but intelligence is believed to be a combination of innate abilities and environmental influences.
Sawaira Riaz
Sep 28, 2023

Is intelligent a commendable trait?

Yes, intelligence is generally valued and commendable, associated with positive contributions.
Sawaira Riaz
Sep 28, 2023

Can cunning involve exploitation?

Yes, cunning often involves exploiting situations or people for one's gain.
Sawaira Riaz
Sep 28, 2023

Is intelligence related to moral discernment?

It can be, but intelligence and morality are distinct concepts.
Harlon Moss
Sep 28, 2023

Does cunning imply a lack of intelligence?

No, cunning and intelligence are independent traits; one can be cunning, intelligent, neither, or both.
Sawaira Riaz
Sep 28, 2023

Can a cunning plan be morally acceptable?

It depends on the context; if it involves deception or exploitation for harm, it is generally not morally acceptable.
Harlon Moss
Sep 28, 2023

Can intelligence be developed?

Yes, through learning and experiences, intelligence can be developed and enhanced.
Sawaira Riaz
Sep 28, 2023

Is cunning related to trickery?

Yes, cunning is often associated with trickery and deceit to achieve one's goals.
Harlon Moss
Sep 28, 2023
About Author
Written by
Sawaira Riaz
Sawaira is a dedicated content editor at difference.wiki, where she meticulously refines articles to ensure clarity and accuracy. With a keen eye for detail, she upholds the site's commitment to delivering insightful and precise content.
Edited by
Sumera Saeed
Sumera is an experienced content writer and editor with a niche in comparative analysis. At Diffeence Wiki, she crafts clear and unbiased comparisons to guide readers in making informed decisions. With a dedication to thorough research and quality, Sumera's work stands out in the digital realm. Off the clock, she enjoys reading and exploring diverse cultures.

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