Definitions

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

  • auxiliary v. Used to indicate physical or mental ability: I can carry both suitcases. Can you remember the war?
  • auxiliary v. Used to indicate possession of a specified power, right, or privilege: The President can veto congressional bills.
  • auxiliary v. Used to indicate possession of a specified capability or skill: I can tune the harpsichord as well as play it.
  • auxiliary v. Used to indicate possibility or probability: I wonder if my long lost neighbor can still be alive. Such things can and do happen.
  • auxiliary v. Used to indicate that which is permitted, as by conscience or feelings: One can hardly blame you for being upset.
  • auxiliary v. Used to indicate probability or possibility under the specified circumstances: They can hardly have intended to do that.
  • auxiliary v. Usage Problem Used to request or grant permission: Can I be excused?
  • n. A usually cylindrical metal container.
  • n. An airtight container, usually made of tin-coated iron, in which foods or beverages are preserved.
  • n. The contents of such a container.
  • n. Slang A jail or prison.
  • n. Slang A toilet or restroom.
  • n. Slang The buttocks.
  • n. Slang A naval destroyer.
  • transitive v. To seal in an airtight container for future use; preserve: canning peaches.
  • transitive v. Slang To make a recording of: can the audience's applause for a TV comedy show.
  • transitive v. Slang To dismiss from employment or school. See Synonyms at dismiss.
  • transitive v. Slang To put a stop to; quit: Let's can the chatter.
  • 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.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A more or less cylindrical vessel for liquids, usually of steel or aluminium.
  • n. A container used to carry and dispense water for plants (a watering can).
  • n. A tin-plate canister, often cylindrical, for preserved foods such as fruit, meat, or fish.
  • n. toilet, bathroom.
  • n. buttocks.
  • n. jail or prison.
  • n. headphones.
  • v. To preserve, by heating and sealing in a can or jar.
  • v. to discard, scrap or terminate (an idea, project, etc.).
  • v. To shut up.
  • v. To fire or dismiss an employee.
  • v. To know how to; to be able to.
  • v. May; to be permitted or enabled to.
  • v. To know.

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.]
  • n. A drinking cup; a vessel for holding liquids.
  • n. A vessel or case of tinned iron or of sheet metal, of various forms, but usually cylindrical.
  • v. To know; to understand.
  • v. To be able to do; to have power or influence.
  • v. To be able; -- followed by an infinitive without to.
  • transitive v. To preserve by putting in sealed cans.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • n. Knowledge; skill; ability.
  • n. 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.
  • n. A measure of liquids in the Shetland islands, containing about an English gallon.
  • n. The revolving cylindrical holder into which the sliver falls from a carding-machine.
  • n. Cup and can. See cup.
  • n. The catty or pound of Cochin China, equal to 1 pound 6 ounces avoirdupois.
  • n. A chimney-pot.
  • n. An abbreviation of canon;
  • n. of canto;
  • n. of cantoris.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. the quantity contained in a can
  • n. airtight sealed metal container for food or drink or paint etc.
  • v. terminate the employment of; discharge from an office or position
  • v. preserve in a can or tin
  • n. a room or building equipped with one or more toilets
  • n. the fleshy part of the human body that you sit on
  • n. a plumbing fixture for defecation and urination
  • n. a buoy with a round bottom and conical top

Etymologies

Middle English, first and third person sing. present tense of connen, to know how, from Old English cunnan.
Middle English canne, a water container, from Old English.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
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. (Wiktionary)
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"). (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • 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

  • 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?

  • 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

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

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

  • 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."

  • 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

  • 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

  • Hi Nandita, wud like to participate in ur event..how 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

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

    Andrea Dworkin on disability

  • 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

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Comments

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  • 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

  • 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