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

Trust & Travel Apartments Writer Sophy Roberts loves the rental apartments in Palazzo Ca’Nova, a palace with two water-facing sides in San Marco, right across the canal from Santa Maria della Salute. Andrea Whittle, Condé Nast Traveler, "The Locals' Guide to Venice," 4 Sep. 2019 Bishop Francis Malooly will celebrate Mass on Sept. 14 at 11 a.m. at St. Patrick’s Chapel, 287 Pleasant Grove Road, Conowingo, to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the founding of the little chapel in 1819 by Irish boatmen and canal workers. Joanne Bierly,, "Port Deposit: VFW Auxiliary national president visits Cecil County," 30 Aug. 2019 It was spotted in 1930 by astronomer Clyde Tombaugh at Arizona's Lowell Observatory (named after the otherwise respected American astronomer Percival Lowell who believed that Martians dug the canals found on that planet's surface). Lauren Kent, CNN, "Why Pluto is no longer a planet (or is it?)," 24 Aug. 2019 Most live in underground canals and make their entrance through toilets. Fox News, "Thai firefighter wrangles 16-foot python with bare hands, wrestles it into rice sack," 22 Aug. 2019 In the 1970s a campaign involving the actor John Wayne helped persuade America to pass a law that returned Panama’s canal in 1999. The Economist, "A secret hydropower deal with Brazil causes a political crisis in Paraguay," 22 Aug. 2019 Lights were created out of ropes to reflect the history of horses pulling barges down the nearby canal. Anne Nickoloff,, "The Barrel Room wine bar takes over historic Canal-Fulton building," 21 Aug. 2019 The canal itself should be passable to medium-to-large species, given its narrow width and absence of currents. Debbie Ponchner, Scientific American, "Panama Risks Becoming A Broken Link in an Intercontinental Wildlife Route," 19 Aug. 2019 Surfer’s ear is different from the more common swimmer’s ear, which is a bacterial infection in the outer ear canal. Jason Daley, Smithsonian, "Were Neanderthals Getting Surfer’s Ear From Diving for Seafood?," 16 Aug. 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

9 Sep 2019

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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).


readily or continually undergoing change

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