The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #173237   Message #4201213
Posted By: Helen
18-Apr-24 - 08:13 PM
Thread Name: BS: Witch persecution and Wales
Subject: RE: BS: Witch persecution and Wales
Thanks for the information, Anne.

Just a reminder i.e. to head some people off at the pass, about what the word "cunning" originally meant:

"cunning (adj.)

"early 14c., conning, "learned, skillful, possessing knowledge," present participle of connen, cunnen "to know," from Old English cunnan (see can (v.1)), from PIE root *gno- "to know." Also compare cun (v.). Sense of "skillfully deceitful, characterized by crafty ingenuity" is probably by late 14c. Related: Cunningly.
also from early 14c.

"cunning (n.)

"c. 1300, conninge, "knowledge, understanding, information, learning," a sense now obsolete, verbal noun from connen, cunnen "to have ability or capacity," from Old English cunnan (see can v.1). By mid-14c. as "ability to understand, intelligence; wisdom, prudence;" sense of "cleverness, shrewdness, practical skill in a secret or crafty manner" is by late 14c.
also from c. 1300"

This is different from the later meaning

"Cunning people are clever at planning something so that they get what they want, especially by tricking other people, or things that are cleverly made for a particular purpose..."

So, using the term "cunning men" is not necessarily derogatory. It probably referred to their knowledge and skills.