canaille

noun
ca·​naille | \ kə-ˈnī How to pronounce canaille (audio) , -ˈnāl How to pronounce canaille (audio) \

Definition of canaille

The Origin of Canaille

For a creature said to be man's best friend, the dog doesn't get a whole lot of respect in the English language. Something that has "gone to the dogs," for example, has gone to ruin, and the Britishism dog's breakfast means a confused mess of something. The word canaille, which debuted in English in the 17th century, shows that we have no qualms about associating dogs with the lower levels of human society; it derives via French from Italian canaglia, and ultimately from canis, the Latin word for "dog." Canis, of course, is also the source of canine, which as a noun refers to a dog (as well as a conical pointed tooth), and as an adjective means "of or relating to dogs or to the family to which they belong."

First Known Use of canaille

1661, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for canaille

French, from Italian canaglia, from cane dog, from Latin canis — more at hound

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about canaille

Listen to Our Podcast about canaille

Dictionary Entries near canaille

cana espina

canafistula

canaigre

canaille

canajong

canakin

canal

Statistics for canaille

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for canaille

The first known use of canaille was in 1661

See more words from the same year

More from Merriam-Webster on canaille

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with canaille

Comments on canaille

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

WORD OF THE DAY

behavior toward others

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Words for Summer: A Quiz

  • a closeup of a sunflower
  • Which of the following words means “of or relating to summer”?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

TAKE THE QUIZ
Add Diction

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

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!