Someone who is often considered as smart and shrew is often labeled as being ‘cunning’. Cunning defines someone who is very skilled in achieving one’s ends by deceit or evasion. A cunning person is very smart and is likely to go to any lengths to achieve their needs, even by deceit or wrong-doing. However, they are not necessarily evil.
The word ‘cunning’ is derived from the Old English ‘cunnende’, which was a present participle of ‘cunnan’. ‘Cunnan’ meant to know how to or be able to. Hence, a cunning person knows what they want and knows how to get it.
Cunning is used to describe a person who is considered to be sly, crafty and clever. They can be quite skillful, and ingenious. They can be quite subtle and charming when trying to get their way, so much so that they can convince someone to do something against their wishes, but make it appear like it was their own idea in the first place.
In mythology, the fox is the traditional depiction of cunningness.