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ca·​nal kə-ˈnal How to pronounce canal (audio)
: a tubular anatomical passage or channel : duct
: an artificial waterway for navigation or for draining or irrigating land
: any of various faint narrow lines on the planet Mars seen through telescopes and once thought by some to be canals built by Martians


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canalled or canaled; canalling or canaling

transitive verb

: to construct a canal through or across

Example Sentences

Noun the Panama Canal opened a much easier and shorter passageway from the Atlantic to the Pacific
Recent Examples on the Web
From cruises along the world’s longest canal to a post-earthquake fairyland, various outdoor attractions have opened or undergone dramatic makeovers, giving travelers more reasons than ever to visit China. Maggie Hiufu Wong, CNN, 19 Mar. 2023 Fans spotted Jason Sudeikis and Hannah Waddingham near a canal in the city. Kelly Allen, House Beautiful, 15 Mar. 2023 An illustration of a solar panel canal in California. IEEE Spectrum, 14 Mar. 2023 The then-35-year-old’s body was found near a canal by the 4300 block of Southwest 25th Street in central Broward. Angie Dimichele, Sun Sentinel, 8 Mar. 2023 The body was dismembered, packed into barrels that were then filled with concrete and sunk in the Rhine River and a canal. Souad Mekhennet, Washington Post, 6 Mar. 2023 To irrigate their fields, the valley’s farmers rely completely on Colorado River water, which arrives by an 80-mile-long canal. Henry Fountain Mette Lampcov, New York Times, 25 Feb. 2023 However, several surveys in the 1800s suggested that building a canal would be too costly or difficult to undertake. Patrick Connolly, Orlando Sentinel, 24 Feb. 2023 Then a canal is cut from the sawn acres to the mouth of the elevators at the house. Mark Fischetti, Scientific American, 1 Feb. 2023 See More

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

Word History



Middle English, from Latin canalis pipe, channel, from canna reed — more at cane

First Known Use


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1792, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of canal was in the 15th century

Dictionary Entries Near canal

Cite this Entry

“Canal.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 30 Mar. 2023.

Kids Definition


: a tube-shaped bodily passage or channel : duct
: an artificial waterway for boats or for draining or irrigating land
: any of various faint narrow lines on the planet Mars seen through telescopes and formerly thought to be canals built by Martians

Medical Definition


ca·​nal kə-ˈnal How to pronounce canal (audio)
: a tubular anatomical passage or channel : duct see alimentary canal, haversian canal, inguinal canal

More from Merriam-Webster on canal

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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