noun (1)
can·​on | \ˈka-nən \

Definition of canon 

(Entry 1 of 3)

1a : 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

4a : 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 copy— A. 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


noun (2)

Definition of canon (Entry 2 of 3)

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


noun (3)

less common spelling of

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

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Choose the Right Synonym for canon

Noun (1)

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

What is the difference between cannon and canon?

Noun (1)

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.

First Known Use of canon

Noun (1)

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

Noun (2)

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for canon

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

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

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More Definitions for canon


can·​on | \ˈka-nən \

Kids Definition of canon

1 : a rule or law of a church

2 : an accepted rule He follows the canons of good taste.


can·​on | \ˈka-nən \

Legal Definition of canon 

1a : a regulation or doctrine decreed by a church council

b : a provision of canon law

2a : an accepted principle or rule canons of descent

b : a body of principles, rules, standards, or norms

History and Etymology for canon

Greek kanōn rod, measuring line, rule

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More from Merriam-Webster on canon

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with canon

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for canon

Spanish Central: Translation of canon

Nglish: Translation of canon for Spanish Speakers

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

Comments on canon

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


to make faulty or ineffective

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