Merriam-Webster Logo
  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
  • Scrabble
  • Spanish Central
  • Learner's Dictionary


noun can·on \ˈka-nən\

Definition of canon

  1. 1 a :  a regulation or dogma decreed by a church council b :  a provision of canon law

  2. 2 [Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Late Latin, from Latin, model] :  the most solemn and unvarying part of the Mass including the consecration of the bread and wine

  3. 3 [Middle English, from Late Latin, from Latin, standard] a :  an authoritative list of books accepted as Holy Scripture b :  the authentic works of a writer c :  a sanctioned or accepted group or body of related works <the canon of great literature>

  4. 4 a :  an accepted principle or rule b :  a criterion or standard of judgment c :  a body of principles, rules, standards, or norms

  5. 5 [Late Greek kanōn, from Greek, model] :  a contrapuntal musical composition in which each successively entering voice presents the initial theme usually transformed in a strictly consistent way

Origin of canon

Middle English, from Old English, from Late Latin, from Latin, ruler, rule, model, standard, from Greek kanōn

First Known Use: before 12th century

Synonym Discussion of canon

law, rule, regulation, precept, statute, ordinance, canon mean a principle governing action or procedure. law implies imposition by a sovereign authority and the obligation of obedience on the part of all subject to that authority <obey the law>. rule applies to more restricted or specific situations <the rules of the game>. regulation implies prescription by authority in order to control an organization or system <regulations affecting nuclear power plants>. precept commonly suggests something advisory and not obligatory communicated typically through teaching <the precepts of effective writing>. statute implies a law enacted by a legislative body <a statute requiring the use of seat belts>. ordinance applies to an order governing some detail of procedure or conduct enforced by a limited authority such as a municipality <a city ordinance>. canon suggests in nonreligious use a principle or rule of behavior or procedure commonly accepted as a valid guide <the canons of good taste>.

Other Christian Religious Terms

Rhymes with canon



noun can·on

Definition of canon

  1. 1 :  a clergyman belonging to the chapter or the staff of a cathedral or collegiate church

  2. 2 :  canon regular

Origin of canon

Middle English canoun, from Anglo-French *canoun, chanoun, from Late Latin canonicus one living under a rule, from Latin, according to rule, from Greek kanonikos, from kanōn

First Known Use: 13th century



Definition of cañon

  1. variant of canyon

CANON Defined for Kids


noun can·on \ˈka-nən\

Definition of canon for Students

  1. 1 :  a rule or law of a church

  2. 2 :  an accepted rule <He follows the canons of good taste.>

Law Dictionary


noun can·on \ˈka-nən\

Legal Definition of canon

  1. 1a :  a regulation or doctrine decreed by a church council b :  a provision of canon law

  2. 2a :  an accepted principle or rule <canons of descent> b :  a body of principles, rules, standards, or norms

Origin of canon

Greek kanōn rod, measuring line, rule

Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up canon? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to manage or play awkwardly

Get Word of the Day daily email!


Take a 3-minute break and test your skills!


Which of these is a synonym of nonplus?

disapprove soothe perplex reduce
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.