Merriam Webster's first definition of canter states:

One who uses cant, such as:
a : beggar, vagabond
b : a user of professional or religious cant

I get the meaning of a, but I'm at a loss for the b definition. I didn't know "cant" was something that could be used. Can anyone explain what they mean by this??

  • Did you look up cant while you were on M-W? Do so, and scroll down to the 6th definition. Aug 8, 2018 at 15:14
  • 1
    I don’t understand what’s unclear. Cant is “language specific to a particular group or profession” (ODO); why would language not be something that can be used? Can you clarify what exactly it is you find difficult to understand? Aug 8, 2018 at 15:14
  • @StoneyB Ah, no I didn't. For some reason I just had it in my head as can't, I didn't even realize it was a different word. So I was thinking that for a: that they just "can't". My brain clearly isn't working this morning. Thanks.
    – Sensoray
    Aug 8, 2018 at 15:17
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    @JanusBahsJacquet see above. Apparently I "can't" even think clearly morning. Thank you for posing your thoughts/questions in positive way.
    – Sensoray
    Aug 8, 2018 at 15:20

3 Answers 3


"Cant" is a particular style of speech, usually "hypocritical and sanctimonious talk, typically of a moral, religious, or political nature." but it may also be applied to professional jargon in some circumstances.


Under the 6th definition of Cant (noun), Merriam Webster states:

Definition of cant

1: affected singsong or whining speech; a beggar's cant

2a : the private language of the underworld; the cant of thieves

b obsolete : the phraseology peculiar to a religious class or sect

So it seems that religious cant is an obsolete noun.

(First answer on this site, hope it helps)


"Cant" is pretty rare, and "canter", while a clear derivation, I can't imagine being useful more than say, once in a hundred years.

"Cantor", of course, is something else entirely (just in case that's what you were looking for). Cantors use cant only incidentally.

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