canon

1 of 3

noun (1)

can·​on ˈka-nən How to pronounce canon (audio)
1
a
: a regulation or dogma decreed by a church council
b
: a provision of canon law
2
[Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Late Latin, from Latin, model] : the most solemn and unvarying part of the Mass including the consecration of the bread and wine
3
[Middle English, from Late Latin, from Latin, standard]
a
: an authoritative list of books accepted as Holy Scripture
b
: the authentic works of a writer
the Chaucer canon
c
: a sanctioned or accepted group or body of related works
the canon of great literature
4
a
: an accepted principle or rule
b
: a criterion or standard of judgment
the canons of good taste
c
: a body of principles, rules, standards, or norms
according to newspaper canon … a big story calls for a lot of copyA. J. Liebling
5
[Late Greek kanōn, from Greek, model] : a contrapuntal musical composition in which each successively entering voice presents the initial theme usually transformed in a strictly consistent way

canon

2 of 3

noun (2)

1
: a clergyman belonging to the chapter or the staff of a cathedral or collegiate church
2

cañon

3 of 3

noun (3)

ca·​ñon

less common spelling of canyon

1
: a deep narrow valley with steep sides and often with a stream flowing through it
2
: something resembling a canyon
the city's concrete canyons

Did you know?

What is the difference between cannon and canon?

Cannon and canon are occasionally confused by writers, but the two words have independent origins, and do not share a meaning. Cannon is most frequently found used in the sense of "a large gun," and can be traced to the Old Italian word cannone, which means "large tube." Canon, however, comes from the Greek word kanōn, meaning "rule." Although canon has a variety of meanings, it is most often found in the senses of "a rule or law of a church," "an accepted rule," or "a sanctioned or accepted group or body of related works." A loose cannon is "a dangerously uncontrollable person or thing." There are no loose canons.

Choose the Right Synonym for canon

law, rule, regulation, precept, statute, ordinance, canon mean a principle governing action or procedure.

law implies imposition by a sovereign authority and the obligation of obedience on the part of all subject to that authority.

obey the law

rule applies to more restricted or specific situations.

the rules of the game

regulation implies prescription by authority in order to control an organization or system.

regulations affecting nuclear power plants

precept commonly suggests something advisory and not obligatory communicated typically through teaching.

the precepts of effective writing

statute implies a law enacted by a legislative body.

a statute requiring the use of seat belts

ordinance applies to an order governing some detail of procedure or conduct enforced by a limited authority such as a municipality.

a city ordinance

canon suggests in nonreligious use a principle or rule of behavior or procedure commonly accepted as a valid guide.

the canons of good taste

Examples of canon in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web
Noun
In the canon of the strip, he’s never been so mean. Amy Amatangelo, Los Angeles Times, 15 Feb. 2024 Which is why Alameda County voters should elect Michael Johnson, an attorney and pro tem judge with a long list of professional accomplishments and a deep respect for the ethical canons of the judiciary, to the only court seat on the March 5 ballot. East Bay Times Editorial, The Mercury News, 15 Feb. 2024 Designers are always innovating from and reacting against what came before, and new visionaries are cropping up all the time and fighting for a place in the canon. José Criales-Unzueta, Vogue, 14 Feb. 2024 In the past half century, the hunt for women to diversify the canon of early modern literature has prompted scholars to claim Cavendish as one of their own, according to contemporary fashions and tastes. Merve Emre, The New Yorker, 29 Jan. 2024 This new addition to the cartel canon muddies the narconovela narrative by trying to feed us a feminist story that doesn’t quite work. Laura Zornosa, TIME, 26 Jan. 2024 Bon Jovi then sat down, flanked for much of the evening by Springsteen and McCartney, as a constellation of artists took the stage to deliver some of the most beloved anthems in the arena rock canon from the past 40 years. Melinda Newman, Billboard, 3 Feb. 2024 Eventually, Don Giovanni is forced to pay for his exploits in dramatic fashion, but not before some of the most famous arias, duets and ensembles in the opera canon are performed. Pam Kragen, San Diego Union-Tribune, 28 Jan. 2024 Both the filmmaker and his cast are breakouts to watch in this Sundance standout, a heartfelt and hilarious entry in the coming-of-age canon that’s primed to find kindred souls in a wider audience. Matt Brennan, Los Angeles Times, 26 Jan. 2024 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'canon.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

Noun (1)

Middle English, from Old English, from Late Latin, from Latin, ruler, rule, model, standard, from Greek kanōn

Noun (2)

Middle English canoun, from Anglo-French *canoun, chanoun, from Late Latin canonicus one living under a rule, from Latin, according to rule, from Greek kanonikos, from kanōn

First Known Use

Noun (1)

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Noun (2)

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of canon was before the 12th century

Dictionary Entries Near canon

Cite this Entry

“Canon.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/canon. Accessed 24 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition

canon

1 of 3 noun
can·​on ˈkan-ən How to pronounce canon (audio)
1
: a church law or decree
2
: an official list (as of the books of the Bible)
3
: an accepted standard or rule
canons of good taste

canon

2 of 3 noun
: a member of the clergy who is on the staff of a cathedral

cañon

3 of 3

variant of canyon

Legal Definition

canon

noun
can·​on ˈka-nən How to pronounce canon (audio)
1
a
: a regulation or doctrine decreed by a church council
b
: a provision of canon law
2
a
: an accepted principle or rule
canons of descent
b
: a body of principles, rules, standards, or norms
Etymology

Noun

Greek kanōn rod, measuring line, rule

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