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

The jungle hides fields, roads, canals and even whole settlements. Chris Stirewalt, Fox News, "Flake & Co. try to tame partisan wildfire," 28 Sep. 2018 But just three miles away in Caño Martin Pena—a dense, low-lying area adjacent to the Caño Martin Pena canal and filled with informal construction—the effects were far worse. Diana Budds, Curbed, "How architects and designers are rebuilding Puerto Rico," 20 Sep. 2018 Try near canal and creek mouths with surface plugs, plastic frogs and lizards. Mark Blythe,, "Central Florida fishing forecast: July 8," 7 July 2018 Bouncing back and forth between downpours and drought is going to stress infrastructure like canals and sewage systems. Umair Irfan, Vox, "Why Colorado thinks it has a chance to make oil companies pay for climate change," 5 July 2018 Shedd researchers, and eventually volunteers, will closely monitor and analyze the floating gardens’ effects on the canal and riverscape. Patrick M. O'connell,, "A 'wild mile' on the Chicago River? It might be closer than you think," 22 June 2018 Almost the whole of Florida is alligator habitat, and the state is smothered with housing developments rimming the shores of tens of thousands of lakes, ponds, river, canals and other waterways gators call home. Shannon Tompkins, Houston Chronicle, "Wildlife is wild, so admire from afar," 13 June 2018 In the nearby salt-producing region, an elaborate system of canals and pools yields a crop that’s been called White Gold. Marilyn Stasio, New York Times, "A Politician With Real Killer Instincts," 4 May 2018 Ensuring access to water means not only building more canals and bigger reservoirs. Rachel Gamarski,, "Taps Run Dry in Water Summit City in World's Wettest Nation," 19 Mar. 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

18 Nov 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).


by force of circumstances

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