Intermediate+ Word of the Day: cane

cane (noun, verb) /keɪn/ LISTEN

Candy cane is popular around Christmas.

A cane is a short stick used to help someone walk (this is also called a walking stick). It’s also a long woody stem, such as the ones in some plants like bamboo, as well as the material of this stem used to make furniture or smaller objects. As a verb, to cane means ‘to hit with a cane’ or ‘to make something with cane.’

Example sentences

  • My grandfather is a little unsteady when he walks now, so he uses a cane to help him.
  • The workers cut down the bamboo canes.
  • There was a simple cane chair on the porch.
  • Teachers used to cane disobedient pupils, but now they just give them detention.
  • Imogen spent the afternoon caning the chairs.

In pop culture

At Christmas children often get candy canes in their stockings. Candy canes are a kind of sweet made of boiled sugar and shaped like a walking stick, which is why they are called canes. You can read more about candy canes and why they are a Christmas tradition on this site  and, for a dose of Christmas cuteness, here is a video of some kids singing “The Candy Cane Twist”:

Additional information

Sugarcane is a tall grass that grows in tropical regions and is the main source of sugar.

Origin

Cane dates back to the mid-14th century. It came into English through the Middle French cane, which comes from the Latin canna (meaning ‘reed or cane’), and before that, the Greek kánna. Most linguists think its origin is Semitic, possibly from the Assyrian qanu (reed, tube) or the Sumerian gin (reed). It is related to the Akkadian qanū and the Hebrew qāneh, both meaning ‘reed.’

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