verb \kən, ˈkan also ˈken; dial ˈkin\
past could \kəd, ˈkd\ present singular & plural can

Definition of CAN

transitive verb
obsolete :  know, understand
archaic :  to be able to do, make, or accomplish
intransitive verb
archaic :  to have knowledge or skill
verbal auxiliary
a :  know how to <she can read>
b :  be physically or mentally able to <he can lift 200 pounds>
c —used to indicate possibility <do you think he can still be alive> <those things can happen> ; sometimes used interchangeably with may
d :  be permitted by conscience or feeling to <can hardly blame her>
e :  be made possible or probable by circumstances to <he can hardly have meant that>
f :  be inherently able or designed to <everything that money can buy>
g :  be logically or axiologically able to <2 + 2 can also be written 3 + 1>
h :  be enabled by law, agreement, or custom to
:  have permission to —used interchangeably with may <you can go now if you like>

Usage Discussion of CAN

Can and may are most frequently interchangeable in senses denoting possibility; because the possibility of one's doing something may depend on another's acquiescence, they have also become interchangeable in the sense denoting permission. The use of can to ask or grant permission has been common since the 19th century and is well established, although some commentators feel may is more appropriate in formal contexts. May is relatively rare in negative constructions (mayn't is not common); cannot and can't are usual in such contexts.

Origin of CAN

Middle English (1st & 3d singular present indicative), from Old English; akin to Old High German kan (1st & 3d singular present indicative) know, am able, Old English cnāwan to know — more at know
First Known Use: before 12th century


noun \ˈkan\

: a closed metal container that is usually shaped like a cylinder and that holds food or drink

: the food or drink that is in a can

: a metal or plastic container that has a removable top and that is used for holding liquid, trash, etc.

Full Definition of CAN

:  a usually cylindrical receptacle:
a :  a vessel for holding liquids; specifically :  a drinking vessel
b :  a usually metal typically cylindrical receptacle usually with an open top, often with a removable cover, and sometimes with a spout or side handles (as for holding milk or trash)
c :  a container (as of tinplate) in which products (as perishable foods) are hermetically sealed for preservation until use
d :  a jar for packing or preserving fruit or vegetables
:  jail
a :  toilet
b :  bathroom 1
:  buttocks
:  destroyer 2
can·ful \ˈkan-ˌfl\ noun
in the can
of a film or videotape :  completed and ready for release

Examples of CAN

  1. He ate the whole can of beans.
  2. <the shelter stores huge cans of water for an emergency>

Origin of CAN

Middle English canne, from Old English; akin to Old High German channa
First Known Use: before 12th century

Related to CAN

barrel, canister (also cannister), drum, tin

Rhymes with CAN


verb \ˈkan\

Definition of CAN

transitive verb
a :  to put in a can :  preserve by sealing in airtight cans or jars <can tomatoes>
b :  to hit (a golf shot) into the cup
c :  to hit (a shot) in basketball
:  to discharge from employment
slang :  to put a stop or end to
can·ner noun

First Known Use of CAN




Definition of CAN

canceled; cancellation



Definition of CAN

Canada; Canadian

Variants of CAN

Can or Canad
May 29, 2015
bodacious Hear it
unmistakable, remarkable, or voluptuous
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