Word of the Day: can

Word of the Day
April 28, 2016
can (noun, verb)
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As you probably already know, can is a verb that means 'to be able to' or 'to have the possibility to.' However, can has many other meanings. As a noun, a can is an aluminum container, especially one used for liquids, or the quantity held by one of them. In US English, it is also a big container for garbage. Informally, in US English, it either means 'the toilet' or 'prison.' As a verb, can means 'to preserve food by putting it in a can.' Informally, in US English, it means 'to fire someone from a job' or 'to put an end to something.'

 

Example sentences
 
Joanne bought a can of soda to drink with her lunch.
Harry divided the can of soup into three portions.
Carol took her trash out and put it in the garbage can.
Luke hates it when his girlfriend walks into the bathroom while he's on the can.
Wendy ended up in the can for her part in the robbery.
In the autumn, I can tomatoes from my garden so that I'll have vegetables for the winter.
The boss canned Neil for always being late to work.
The kids were making too much noise, so their dad told them to can it.

 

Multi-word forms
 
in the can (informal): finished. Example: "Everyone on the team was relieved to finally have the project in the can."
 
Did you know?
 
In UK English, the word tin is often also used for a metal food container. In fact, if the contents are food, and not a drink, tin is more common in UK English, although can is not incorrect. Can is almost always used in UK English when talking about a metal drink container. Example: "I'm going to the shop to buy a tin of beans." "Could you also bring me a can of iced tea?" Only can is used in US English, regardless of the contents.
 
Other forms
 
canned (adjective), canner (noun)
 
Origin
 
As an auxiliary verb, can dates back to before 900 and comes from the Middle English and Old English present indicative singular 1st and 3rd person of cunnan, meaning 'to know, to know how.' It is a cognate with the German, Old Norse, and Gothic word kann. As a container, it is thought to date back to before 1000 and comes from the Middle English and Old English word canne, similar to the German word Kanne and the Old Norse word kanna.
 
 
 
 
 
Can in other languages
 
 
 
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