The Meaning of Conniving: What It Is and How To Use It

This guide will provide you with all of the knowledge you need on the word conniving, including its definition, usage, origin, synonyms, and more!

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What does the word conniving mean?

According to Merriam-Webster English Dictionary, Dictionary, and other dictionary apps, the word conniving, pronounced “kəˈnaɪvɪŋ,” has a couple of different meanings. The first common meaning of the adjective is someone who secretly conspires with harmful or evil intent. The word can also describe someone who feigns ignorance or chooses not to take action against something that they should oppose. Conniving is an adjective, which means that it is used to describe a person, place, or thing. In the case of conniving, it will usually describe a person or group of people. The verb form of conniving is the word connive, pronounced “kəˈnaɪv”, which is the action one takes when they are being conniving, or when they are conspiring. The past tense of connive is connived. Finally, the noun form of connive and conniving is the word conniver or connivance, which is used to mean someone who connives or the action of conniving, per Vocabulary. Someone who is conniving is up to no good, and usually sneak around to try to cover up something evil or dastardly.

What is the etymology of the word conniving?

The word conniving was first used around the second quarter of the 17th century, between the years 1625 and 1650, but its verb form connive bagan to be used between 1595 and 1605, according to Dictionary. Etymonline states that the word connive originally meant “to shut someone’s eyes toward something one doesn’t like but can’t help.” This came from the French conniver, which was preceded by the Latin connivere or conivere, which meant “to wink.” This term was used figuratively, “to wink” at a crime, or to turn a blind eye to it. Connivere was formed from the prefix com meaning “with” or “together” and the base nictare, meaning “to wink.” This word has been used since the 1630s to mean “concealing knowledge” and from 1797 to mean “to be in secret complicity.”

What are synonyms and antonyms to the word conniving?

There are many different words one can use to describe someone who is conspiring or scheming up an evil plan with someone else. If one wishes to use a different word than conniving, they can use a synonym. A synonym is a word that means the same thing as a given word or phrase. One might choose to use a synonym if they want to avoid repeating themselves, or if they are looking to expand their vocabulary. The list of below synonyms for conniving is provided by Thesaurus.

  • cogitate
  • intrigue
  • conspire
  • devise
  • scheme
  • be in cahoots with
  • promote
  • angle
  • frame
  • cook up
  • collude
  • plot
  • contrive
  • operate
  • machinate
  • frame up
  • diddle
  • work hand in glove
  • cabal
  • wangle
  • wire
  • finagle

But what if someone wanted to describe someone who was the opposite of conniving? In this case, that person should use an antonym. An antonym is a word or phrase that means the opposite of a given word or phrase. The list of below antonyms is also provided by Thesaurus.

  • criticize
  • blow whistle on
  • send up
  • name
  • upbraid
  • send up the river
  • belittle
  • frame
  • depreciate
  • condemn
  • reproach
  • disparage
  • point finger at
  • adjudge
  • reprobate
  • reprove
  • damn
  • put away
  • punish
  • castigate
  • put down
  • censure
  • proscribe
  • deprecate
  • chide
  • call down
  • let have it
  • doom
  • hang something on
  • sentence
  • disapprove
  • convict
  • pin it on
  • denounce
  • find guilty
  • knock
  • pass sentence on
  • come down on
  • decry
  • skin
  • judge
  • reprehend
  • blame
  • denunciate
  • thumbs down on
  • lay at one’s door
  • find fault with
  • pronounce

How can the word conniving be used in a sentence?

The word conniving can be used to describe any number of people, from smaller childish schemes all the way up to international evil plans. Below are two different examples of ways the word conniving can be used in a sentence. In this first example, Jackie and her twin brother Mason are planning to sneak out to go to a party when their mother catches them with the keys to the car.

Mom: You conniving thieves!

Jackie: Mom, I promise it’s not what it looks like.

Mom: It looks like you two took my keys to use the car to go to the party I told you that you couldn’t go to.

Mason: Maybe it is what it looks like. 

Here, Jackie and Mason’s mom calls them conniving because they conspired together to form a plan to sneak out. In this next example, Mason has just broken up with his girlfriend after discovering she was cheating on him. Jackie consoles him.

Mason: I just don’t know how I missed it. All of her friends – OUR friends – lied to me!

Jackie: She’s a conniving piece of work. They all are. If she was unhappy in the relationship, she should have come to you about it. Not just cheated on you behind your back. 

Mason: I just don’t know what to do. I lost her, and now I’m losing all of my friends too. I can’t believe they all took her side.

Jackie: She seems to attract like company. If one of them is conniving, they all are. 

Here, Jackie uses the word conniving to describe Mason’s ex-girlfriend as well as the friends who lied to him.

Overall, the word conniving is an adjective that means conspiring or cooperating with some person or group of people in secret with malicious or evil intent. The word conniving is used similarly to the word scheming or conspiring, and can also mean someone who is not taking an action against something they should be opposed to.