Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Community Comment

A Word A Day — connive

Good afternoon  Netizens...

December 05, 2012

Word of the Day

  • connive
  • audio pronunciation
  • \kuh-NYVE\


: to pretend ignorance of or fail to take action against something one ought to oppose
a : to be indulgent or in secret sympathy : wink b : to cooperate secretly or have a secret understanding
: to engage in secret scheming : conspire

He is not above conniving against his own co-workers if he thinks it will benefit his own career.

"Families fare badly in Western drama. Oedipus kills his father, Lear's daughters connive against one another, and Ibsen's Nora walks out on her husband and their three young children." — From a theater review by Steven G. Kellman in Current (San Antonio), August 22–28, 2012


"Connive" may not seem like a troublesome term, but it was to Wilson Follett, a usage critic who lamented that the word "was undone during the Second World War, when restless spirits felt the need of a new synonym for plotting, bribing, spying, conspiring, engineering a coup, preparing a secret attack." Follett thought "connive" should only mean "to wink at" or "to pretend ignorance." Those senses are closer to the Latin ancestor of the word ("connive" comes from the Latin "connivēre," which means "to close the eyes" and which is descended from "-nivēre," a form akin to the Latin verb "nictare," meaning "to wink"). But many English speakers disagreed, and the "conspire" sense is now the word's most widely used meaning.

Spokesman-Review readers blog about news and issues in Spokane written by Dave Laird.