Below is an expression from the entry "cunning" and "crafty" in Oxford Learner's Thesaurus.

Cunning can describe a person or a plan. Crafty usually describes a person;it can also describe a single action, but not a whole plan: -That was a crafty move/touch.(O) -a crafty ploy by the marketing people.(X)

Why cannot "crafty" describe a whole plan but "cunning" can?

1 Answer 1


It is not clear why they say that the adjective (crafty) connotation cannot be applied to a plan. Actually usage suggests that the expression "crafty plan" is used as shown in Ngram. I could find no other dictionary that mentions that aspect.

Curiously the usage of cunning in that respect has become more common in recent decades.

  • You should look at the results, very many instances of "a cunning plan" are from a British television comedy show The Black Adder; "I have a cunning plan" was the catchphrase of Rowan Atkinson's sidekick Baldrick. You should watch the series, the Youtube clips doesn't do it any credit. Hilarious,
    – Mari-Lou A
    Nov 23, 2016 at 20:18
  • @Mari-LouA Do you mean that what Ngram's statistics suggests is not very trustworthy valid due to the questionable use of "crafty plan" in Youtube? I would like to get your opinion or thoughts on this question. :) Nov 25, 2016 at 18:55
  • @SmartHumanism No, I meant that many instances on Ngram are only repeating the catchphrase "I have a cunning plan" and to watch the entire series of The Black Adder, the clips on YouTube are too brief and they don't really do it any justice.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Nov 25, 2016 at 19:07

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