From Middle English can, first and third person singular of connen, cunnen (“to be able, know how”), from Old English can(n), first and third person singular of cunnan (“to know how”), from Proto-Germanic *kunnaną, from Proto-Indo-European *ǵneh₃- (whence know). Compare West Frisian kinne, Dutch kunnen, Low German könen, German können, Danish and Norwegian Bokmål kunne, Swedish and Norwegian Nynorsk kunna. Doublet of con. See also: canny, cunning.
can (third-person singular simple present can, present participle -, simple past could, past participle (obsolete except in adjectival use) couth)
- (auxiliary verb, defective) To know how to; to be able to.
- (modal auxiliary verb, defective, informal) May; to be permitted or enabled to.
- (modal auxiliary verb, defective) To have the potential to; be possible.
- (auxiliary verb, defective) Used with verbs of perception.
- (obsolete, transitive) To know.
From Middle English canne, from Old English canne (“glass, container, cup, can”), from Proto-Germanic *kannǭ (“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”).
can (plural cans)
- A more or less cylindrical vessel for liquids, usually of steel or aluminium, but sometimes of plastic, and with a carrying handle over the top.
- A container used to carry and dispense water for plants (a watering can).
- A tin-plate canister, often cylindrical, for preserved foods such as fruit, meat, or fish.
- (archaic) A chamber pot, now (US, slang) a toilet or lavatory.
- (US, slang) Buttocks.
- (slang) Jail or prison.
- (slang, in the plural) Headphones.
- (archaic) A drinking cup.
- (nautical) A cube-shaped buoy or marker used to denote a port-side lateral mark
- A chimney pot.
can (third-person singular simple present cans, present participle canning, simple past and past participle canned)
- To seal in a can.
- To preserve by heating and sealing in a jar or can.
- To discard, scrap or terminate (an idea, project, etc.).
- To shut up.
- (US, euphemistic) To fire or dismiss an employee.