Printable Version
Pronunciation: ên-k-nee Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: Weird, eerie, striking in an almost supernatural way; so accurate as to seem not humanly possible.

Notes: This word is now officially an orphan negative, a negative antonym of a word that no longer exists. While canny is still around, its meaning has changed to "clever, shrewd", so that it is no longer the antonym of uncanny. The adjective is treated to the native comparison forms, uncannier and uncanniest, but don?t forget to change the Y to I before these endings. The same rule applies to the adverb: uncannily.

In Play: Anything that is too good to be true is either not true or uncanny: Lil Abner has an uncanny ability to say the wrong thing at the wrong time.) Uncanniness borders on the supernatural either because of inexplicability or perfection: "Imogene Ettesis is perfectly uncanny in her ability to sort out DNA evidence at crime scenes." (Can you guess why?)

Word History: The original canny was an adjective based on a now archaic sense of can, "to know," retained with the slightly different sense of "know how to," in such phrases as, "Amanda Lynn can play several stringed instruments." In Old English this word was cunnen, with a root (cun-) that developed, with a little help from metathesis from the same source as the gno- in Latin words like cognition and ignorance, from the verb ignorare "to not know". Without the assistance of metathesis, the same root went on to become know. (Today we owe a note of gratitude to Yim Hall for an uncanny ability to spot Good Words like today's.)

Dr. Goodword,

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