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for Wednesday, 29 January 2020

canting

[ kan-ting ]

adjective

affectedly or hypocritically pious or righteous: a canting social reformer.

What is the origin of canting?

Canting comes from one of the senses of the verb cant, “to talk hypocritically or with affected piety.” One of the famed lexicographer Samuel Johnson’s five senses for cant is “A whining pretension to goodness, in formal and affected terms.” Cant and canting ultimately come from Latin cantāre “to sing.” Cantāre and its derivatives such as cantus “song, chant, chanting” were used contemptuously in Medieval Latin for perfunctory and lackluster liturgical chanting of the hours. In English by the first half of the 18th century, cant also meant “the singsong whining or chants of beggars; the phraseology peculiar to a particular class, party, or profession,” and “insincere, conventional expressions of enthusiasm for high ideals, goodness, or piety.” Canting entered English in the second half of the 16th century.

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Last updated: January 29 2020

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