ca·​nal | \ kə-ˈnal How to pronounce canal (audio) \

Definition of canal

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a tubular anatomical passage or channel : duct
3 : an artificial waterway for navigation or for draining or irrigating land
4 : any of various faint narrow lines on the planet Mars seen through telescopes and once thought by some to be canals built by Martians


canalled or canaled; canalling or canaling

Definition of canal (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

: to construct a canal through or across

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Examples of canal in a Sentence


the Panama Canal opened a much easier and shorter passageway from the Atlantic to the Pacific

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Tour the historic hacienda with a personal guide, then snorkel and float on the canal that connects the two cenotes. National Geographic, "Visit these breathtaking underwater caves in the Yucatán Peninsula," 31 May 2019 On a recent Monday afternoon, a handful of young artists took turns highlighting Goodings’ facial features and boat on the canal. Susan Demar Lafferty, Daily Southtown, "Community helps 'unLock' history of city in painting a mural," 13 June 2018 Police said Huizenga was impaired while trying to dock at the wrong house on a Fort Lauderdale canal. Juan Ortega,, "Huizenga's son arrested, accused of drunken boating," 4 May 2018 He was caught on July because a 79-year-old home caretaker, Fernando Carreira, was making routine rounds with his wife, Luz Rodriguez, and visited a blue houseboat on the Indian Creek canal — the same blue houseboat in which Cunanan was hiding., "How Did The Police Track Down Andrew Cunanan?," 22 Mar. 2018 Some 80 cars were damaged or destroyed when tides breached a levee on a canal connecting the harbor to the Annisquam River, sending sea water racing across hundreds of yards of athletic fields. Globe Staff,, "It’s no walk on the beach for coastal areas," 13 Mar. 2018 The oil and gas industry has carved up coastal marshes with more than 10,000 miles of canals. Tristan Baurick,, "The River’s Revenge: The Mississippi remains critical to our prosperity, but hostile to attempts to control it," 15 June 2019 The answer may involve the plasmodesmata, networks of microscopic canals that extend through plant cell walls and allow adjacent cells to share other proteins. Quanta Magazine, "Viruses Can Scatter Their Genes Among Cells and Reassemble," 21 May 2019 From the 12th to 18th centuries, the Venetians controlled a large trading empire—including parts of Greece—from their city-state of canals and lagoons. Dagmar Schwell, National Geographic, "Historical journey: Discover the architectural legacy of Venice," 8 May 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'canal.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of canal


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1792, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for canal


Middle English, from Latin canalis pipe, channel, from canna reed — more at cane

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Statistics for canal

Last Updated

15 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for canal

The first known use of canal was in the 15th century

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More Definitions for canal



English Language Learners Definition of canal

: a long narrow place that is filled with water and was created by people so that boats could pass through it or to supply fields, crops, etc., with water
medical : a tube or passageway in the body


ca·​nal | \ kə-ˈnal How to pronounce canal (audio) \

Kids Definition of canal

1 : an artificial waterway for boats or for irrigation of land
2 : a tubelike passage in the body The ear canal leads from the opening of the ear to the eardrum.


ca·​nal | \ kə-ˈnal How to pronounce canal (audio) \

Medical Definition of canal

: a tubular anatomical passage or channel : duct — see alimentary canal, haversian canal, inguinal canal

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More from Merriam-Webster on canal

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with canal

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for canal

Spanish Central: Translation of canal

Nglish: Translation of canal for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of canal for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about canal

Comments on canal

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


to complain fretfully

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