from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun A usually cylindrical metal container.
  • noun An airtight container, usually made of tin-coated iron, in which foods or beverages are preserved.
  • noun The contents of such a container.
  • noun Slang A jail or prison.
  • noun Slang A toilet or restroom.
  • noun Slang The buttocks.
  • noun Slang A naval destroyer.
  • intransitive verb To seal in an airtight container for future use; preserve.
  • intransitive verb Slang To make a recording of.
  • intransitive verb To end the employment of; fire. synonym: dismiss.
  • intransitive verb To put an end or stop to.
  • intransitive verb To solicit cash donations for a charity or other organization such as a club or amateur sports team by holding out a can or other container in a public place.
  • idiom (can of corn) Something that is easily accomplished, especially a routine catch of a fly ball in baseball.
  • idiom (can of worms) A complex or difficult problem.
  • idiom (in the can) Completed and ready for release, as a film or scene of a film.
  • auxiliary verb Used to indicate physical or mental ability.
  • auxiliary verb Used to indicate possession of a specified power, right, or privilege.
  • auxiliary verb Used to indicate possession of a specified capability or skill.
  • auxiliary verb Used to indicate possibility or probability.
  • auxiliary verb Used to indicate that which is permitted, as by conscience or feelings.
  • auxiliary verb Used to indicate probability or possibility under the specified circumstances.
  • auxiliary verb Usage Problem Used to request or grant permission.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun The catty or pound of Cochin China, equal to 1 pound 6 ounces avoirdupois.
  • noun Knowledge; skill; ability.
  • noun An abbreviation of canon;
  • noun of canto;
  • noun of cantoris.
  • A frequent Middle English corruption of gan, began, preterit of ginnen, begin (see gin): often equivalent, with the infinitive of a principal verb, to the preterit of that verb.
  • A. As an independent verb.
  • To know; understand.
  • To know how to do; be able to do.
  • [So in early use the negative, to con unthank, to give no thanks.
  • To have ability; be able. Still so used in Scotch: as, I'll no can go.
  • B. As an auxiliary.
  • To be able; properly, to be able physically; hence, by extension, to be able mentally, morally, or legally; possess the qualities, qualifications, or resources necessary for the attainment of any end or the accomplishment of any purpose, the specific end or purpose being indicated by the verb to which can is auxiliary.
  • [Formerly used also in the infinitive.
  • May: noting merely permission; as, you can have it if you wish; can I speak to you a moment?
  • To put into a can; especially, to put into sealed metal cans or glass jars, for preservation, as prepared vegetables, fruits, and meats.
  • noun A vessel of small or moderate size and made of any material, but now generally of sheet-metal, such as tin, and used as a drinking-cup or to contain liquids, preserves, etc.
  • noun A measure of liquids in the Shetland islands, containing about an English gallon.
  • noun The revolving cylindrical holder into which the sliver falls from a carding-machine.
  • noun Cup and can. See cup.
  • noun A chimney-pot.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • an obs. form of began, imp. & p. p. of begin, sometimes used in old poetry. [See gan.]
  • noun A drinking cup; a vessel for holding liquids.
  • noun A vessel or case of tinned iron or of sheet metal, of various forms, but usually cylindrical.


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Middle English canne, a water container, from Old English.]

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Middle English, first and third person sing. present tense of connen, to know how, from Old English cunnan; see gnō- in Indo-European roots.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Middle English can (first and third person singular of cunnen, connen "to be able, know how") from Old English can(n), first and third person singular of cunnan ("to know how"), from Proto-Germanic *kunnanan, from Proto-Indo-European, *ǵn̥néh₃-. Compare Dutch kunnen, German können, Danish kunne. More at canny, cunning.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Middle English canne, from Old English canne ("glass, container, cup, can"), from Proto-Germanic *kannōn (“can, tankard, mug, cup”), perhaps from Proto-Indo-European *gan-, *gandʰ- (“a vessel”). Cognate with Scots can ("can"), West Frisian kanne ("a jug, pitcher"), Dutch kan ("pot, mug"), German Kanne ("can, tankard, mug"), Danish kande ("can, mug, a measure"), Swedish kanna ("can, tankard, mug"), Icelandic kanna ("a can").


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  • We know can rely on the market to deliver food in this country because experience has shown that the market *can* deliver food to everyone who needs it, at least for the past couple of hundred years.

    The Volokh Conspiracy » Health Reform: Naive, Hypocritical, or Simply Dishonest? 2009

  • I have looked all over for your new book "Real Live Boyfriends" and I cant find it,,can you tell me if theres a web site or something that I can get it from?

    Printz Honor 2009

  • You can store your delicious lychees in the refrigerator for up to 10 days, if you can  resist eating them all as soon as you bring them home from the supermarket.

    4 exotic fruits to try this weekend 2009

  • Now, the bath is something I can make easily..can get all ingredients.

    Traditional Lunch Series - Day 4 (Capsicum baath, Pumpkin Pachidi, Thair Saadam) 2008

  • Not that it's a compelling interest of government that can not be met in any other way but by limiting that individual Right, but if they *want* to impose gun control because they *think* it will help reduce crime and I don't think that anyone asked to show that this is actually true, *can*, so...they can do that.

    "Barns for Obama." Ann Althouse 2008

  • I know it can be difficult to do it properly, but shouldn't that mean it should be supported when a poet *can* do it well?

    Poetry 2008

  • As my partner summarized it, "Both by how cruel people can be to each other, and by the wonder that it *can* be overcome and if they can do it, so can we!"

    Girl Germs and Malice Zoe Brain 2008

  • Hi Nandita, wud like to participate in ur many posts can we submit..coz, i think, most of what I make are from leftovers..can I sent u a bunch?

    WBB # 15 - Announcement & Gokulashtami 2007

  • And I can also see how that is or would be dissapointing to those that *can* do both.

    Andrea Dworkin on disability 2006

  • I know of none in this case, but folks who want to make a scientific case for ID can try to find some, or find some other testable model for which they *can* find supporting data.

    Boy, they *really* don't get it - The Panda's Thumb 2005


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  • Slang for jail, loo, buttocks, prat! Also, an autantonym: can as in preserve vs. can as in get rid of - e.g., cachier.

    December 7, 2007

  • A canner, exceedingly canny,

    One morning remarked to his granny,

    'A canner can can

    Anything that he can,

    But a canner can't can a can, can he?'

    - Carolyn Wells, 'A Canner, Exceedingly Canny'.

    April 12, 2009

  • can is heavy light. can is uncanny,canny hope.

    June 5, 2018

  • Cogito ergo can.

    June 5, 2018

  • can dew??

    June 6, 2018

  • "...when he is well, he and my good master Hatchway come hither every evening, and drink a couple of cans of rumbo a piece; but he has been confined to his house this fortnight by a plaguy fit of the gout..."

    — Smollett, Peregrine Pickle

    January 12, 2022