1

may

play
auxiliary verb \ ˈmā \

Definition of may

past might play \ˈmīt\; present singular and plural may
1 a archaic :have the ability to
b :have permission to
  • you may go now
:be free to
  • a rug on which children may sprawl
  • —C. E. Silberman
used nearly interchangeably with can
c used to indicate possibility or probability
  • you may be right
  • things you may need
sometimes used interchangeably with can
  • one of those slipups that may happen from time to time
  • —Jessica Mitford
sometimes used where might would be expected
  • you may think from a little distance that the country was solid woods
  • —Robert Frost
2 used in auxiliary function to express a wish or desire especially in prayer, imprecation, or benediction
  • may the best man win
3 used in auxiliary function expressing purpose or expectation
  • I laugh that I may not weep
or contingency
  • she'll do her duty come what may
or concession
  • he may be slow but he is thorough
or choice
  • the angler may catch them with a dip net, or he may cast a large, bare treble hook
  • —Nelson Bryant
4 :shall, must used in law where the sense, purpose, or policy requires this interpretation

can vs. may

Can and may are most frequently interchangeable in uses denoting possibility; because the possibility of one's doing something may depend on another's acquiescence, they have also become interchangeable in the sense denoting permission. The use of can to ask or grant permission has been common since the 19th century and is well established, although some commentators feel may is more appropriate in formal contexts. May is relatively rare in negative constructions (mayn't is not common); cannot and can't are usual in such contexts.


Origin and Etymology of may

Middle English (1st & 3rd singular present indicative), from Old English mæg; akin to Old High German mag (1st & 3rd singular present indicative) have power, am able (infinitive magan), and perhaps to Greek mēchos means, expedient


2

may

play
noun \ ˈmā \

Definition of may

archaic

Origin and Etymology of may

Middle English, from Old English mǣg kinsman, kinswoman, maiden


May

play
noun \ ˈmā \

Definition of May

1 :the fifth month of the Gregorian calendar
2 often not capitalized :the early vigorous blooming part of human life :prime
3 :the festivities of May Day
4 not capitalized
a :green or flowering branches used for May Day decorations
b :a plant that yields may: such as
(1) :hawthorn
(2) :a spring-flowering spirea

Examples of may in a Sentence

  1. Shakespeare called it the merry month of May.

  2. The last two Mays have been cold and rainy.

Origin and Etymology of may

Middle English, from Anglo-French & Latin; Anglo-French mai, from Latin Maius, from Maia, Roman goddess

Other Calendar Terms


May

play
biographical name \ ˈmā \

Definition of May

Theresa (Mary) 1956–     née Theresa Mary Brasier British prime minister (2016–  )

Examples of may in a Sentence

  1. Shakespeare called it the merry month of May.

  2. The last two Mays have been cold and rainy.

Other Calendar Terms


MAY Defined for English Language Learners

May

play
noun

Definition of May for English Language Learners

  • : the fifth month of the year


May

play
noun

Definition of May for English Language Learners

  • : the fifth month of the year


MAY Defined for Kids

may

play
helping verb \ ˈmā \

Definition of may for Students

past might \ˈmīt\; present singular & plural may
1 :have permission to
  • You may go now.
2 :be in some degree likely to
  • You may be right.
3 used to express a wish
  • May the best man win.
4 used to express purpose
  • We exercise so that we may be strong.

May

play
noun \ ˈmā \

Definition of May for Students

:the fifth month of the year

History for may

The English word May came from Maius, the Latin name for the same month. The Latin name came from Maia, a Roman goddess. The ancient Romans made offerings to this goddess every first day of May.



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