ca·​nal | \kə-ˈnal \

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

Many of Balboa Park’s historic buildings were constructed for the 1915 and 1917 Panama-California Exposition to highlight the city as a place for ships traveling north from the canal to go first. Phillip Molnar,, "Port of San Diego lands large liner contract," 9 July 2018 Bones said police believe the knife used in the stabbing was discarded by the suspect prior to his arrest, and police searched a nearby canal as well as the areas around the apartment complex. NBC News, "Boise stabbing: 9 injured in attack at Idaho apartment complex," 1 July 2018 The authority operates the canal for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s Central Valley Project. Dale Kasler And Phillip Reese, sacbee, "The Valley floor is sinking, and it’s crippling California’s ability to deliver water," 13 July 2018 Larry Hazlewood befriended a big one with orange dorsal spikes who basked in his backyard and swam in his canal. Linda Robertson, miamiherald, "South Florida is suffering from an iguana infestation. A solution? Think barbecue.," 11 July 2018 Boca Raton residents who live near canals say they’re glad projects to chop down trees and vegetation are being delayed. Marci Shatzman,, "Boca Raton wins delay on plan to remove trees near residents' homes," 11 July 2018 The true remedy is simple: dry the external canal with a thin terrycloth towel, then use a hairdryer on a cool setting to dry the ear completely. Houston Chronicle, "Vicks VapoRub for poison ivy itch," 8 July 2018 Investigators aren't sure exactly how the canals in this outbreak were tainted, FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., explained in the statement. Korin Miller, SELF, "Officials Think They’ve Finally Found the Source of the Romaine Lettuce E. Coli Outbreak," 2 July 2018 The deal also included supplies in exchange for lining the All-American and Coachella canals with concrete, which prevented losses during transportation. Joshua Emerson Smith,, "San Diego's efforts to divest from rival L.A. water agency have driven up rates for residents. Is it worth it?," 1 July 2018

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

21 Oct 2018

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 \

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 \

Medical Definition of canal 

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

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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).


playful or foolish behavior

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