Definitions

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

  • n. The masses of the people; the proletariat.
  • n. Rabble; riffraff.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. The lowest class of people; the rabble; the vulgar.
  • n. Shorts or inferior flour.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. The lowest class of people; the rabble; the vulgar.
  • n. Shorts or inferior flour.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. The lowest orders of the people collectively; the rabble; the vulgar.
  • n. Originally, a mixture of the coarser particles of flour and fine bran or shorts for feed; now occasionally used for the grade known as “fine feed” or “finished middlings.” Also spelled canail, canal, and canell.
  • n. A pack (as of hounds): as, the whole canaille of miscreants; a canaille (or canaglia) of poltroons.

Etymologies

French, from Italian canaglia, pack of dogs, rabble, from cane, dog, from Latin canis; see kwon- in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)

Examples

  • The emperor has written the word canaille—“vile creature”—in the margin here.

    THE DIAMOND

  • As for our ministry and the intendants of the provinces, the financiers and what may be called the canaille, they felt all the extent of their loss.

    Court Memoirs of France Series — Complete

  • The Count caught the popular contagion, and after exchanging tears and kisses with patriots whom a week before he had called canaille, he swore eternal fidelity to the

    The Parisians — Complete

  • The army of the Allies, the enemy's position, the public feeling of Paris, and the hope of sharing in the honours of an engagement which was to sweep the revolutionary "canaille" before the

    Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine — Volume 55, No. 339, January, 1844

  • The spirit of Agrarianism reduced the nobility and gentry of France to a social level with the miserable "sans-culottes" of Paris, and the vile "canaille" which seems to raise itself from the midst of civil disturbances with the same ease and as naturally, as all the living engines of corruption burst into activity on the decay of the human body.

    N. Carolina University Magazine

  • They pick up its light weapons on the battle-field on which their fathers perished, and re-feather against the 'canaille' the shafts which had been pointed against the 'noblesse.'

    The Parisians — Volume 01

  • It is curious and amusing to see these leaders of the mob, calling the mob "the people" one day, and the "canaille" the next, according as it suits them.

    Zanoni

  • 'canaille', but anything of 'sangre asul' had a charm for her.

    The Works of Lord Byron: Letters and Journals. Vol. 2

  • As I said, he fixed me with a cold and glittering eye, and in it was the aristocrat's undisguised contempt for the canaille.

    The Dignity of Dollars

  • Surely there is nothing in the canaille to recommend it to your aesthetic soul.

    Chapter 38

Comments

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  • This term has fallen out of use in the past century and even in its heyday it appears to have required some explanation. On April 23, 1899, the Galveston Daily News ran a story about conditions in Hawaii, “The Wild Effort to Hooleyize Us.�? It described the missionaries’ sons as “a very ill-bred canille�? and felt compelled to add “rabble�? in parenthesis, just in case you didn’t know the meaning of the word.

    July 27, 2009

  • Riffraff; proletarian; the mob; rabble. (from Phrontistery)

    May 24, 2008

  • a pack of dogs

    June 22, 2007