Dictionary > English Dictionary > Definition, synonym and antonym of may
Meaning of may by Wiktionary Dictionary



    • enPR: mā, IPA: /meɪ/, X-SAMPA: /meI/
    • Rhymes: -eɪ

    Etymology 1

    Old English magan, from Germanic. Cognate with Dutch mogen, Low German mægen, German mögen, Icelandic megum .


    - ( third-person singular simple present may present participle -, simple past might, past participle - )

    1. ( obsolete, intransitive ) To be strong; to have power ( over ). [8th-17th c.]
    2. ( obsolete, auxiliary ) To be able; can. [8th-17th c.]
    3. ( intransitive, poetic ) To be able to go. [from 9th c.]
    4. ( modal auxiliary verb, defective ) To have permission to, be allowed. Used in granting permission and in questions to make polite requests. [from 9th c.]
      You may smoke outside .
      May I sit there?
    5. ( modal auxiliary verb, defective ) Expressing a present possibility; possibly. [from 13th c.]
      He may be lying .
      Schrödinger's cat may or may not be in the box .
    6. ( subjunctive present, defective ) Expressing a wish ( with present subjunctive effect ). [from 16th c.]
      May you win. May the weather be sunny .
    Usage notes
    Derived terms

    See also

    • Appendix:English tag questions

    Etymology 2

    French mai, so called because it blossoms in May .


    may ( plural: mays )

    1. The hawthorn bush or its blossoms .
    Derived terms


    may ( third-person singular simple present mays present participle maying, simple past and past participle mayed )

    1. To gather may.



    • Amy, MYA, Mya, mya, yam

Explanation of may by Wordnet Dictionary


    1. thorny Eurasian shrub of small tree having dense clusters of white to scarlet flowers followed by deep red berries

    2. the month following April and preceding June

    Definition of may by GCIDE Dictionary


    1. May ( mā ), v. [imp. Might ( mīt )] [AS. pres. maeg I am able, pret. meahte, mihte; akin to D. mogen, G. mögen, OHG. mugan, magan, Icel. mega, Goth. magan, Russ. moche. √103. Cf. Dismay, Main strength, Might. The old imp. mought is obsolete, except as a provincial word.] An auxiliary verb qualifying the meaning of another verb, by expressing: Ability, competency, or possibility; -- now oftener expressed by can.

      How may a man, said he, with idle speech,

      Be won to spoil the castle of his health! Spenser.

      For what he [the king] may do is of two kinds; what he may do as just, and what he may do as possible. Bacon.

      For of all sad words of tongue or pen

      The saddest are these: “It might have been.” Whittier.

      Liberty; permission; allowance.

      Thou mayst be no longer steward. Luke xvi. 2.

      Contingency or liability; possibility or probability.

      Though what he learns he speaks, and may advance

      Some general maxims, or be right by chance. Pope.

      Modesty, courtesy, or concession, or a desire to soften a question or remark.

      How old may Phillis be, you ask. Prior.

      Desire or wish, as in prayer, imprecation, benediction, and the like. “May you live happily.” Dryden.

      May be, and It may be, are used as equivalent to possibly, perhaps, maybe, by chance, peradventure. See 1st Maybe.

    2. May, n. [Cf. Icel. maer, Goth. mawi; akin to E. maiden. √103.] A maiden. [Obs.] Chaucer.

    3. May, n. [F. Mai, L. Maius; so named in honor of the goddess Maia ( Gr. Μαῖα ), daughter of Atlas and mother of Mercury by Jupiter.]
      1. The fifth month of the year, containing thirty-one days. Chaucer.

      2. The early part or springtime of life.

      His May of youth, and bloom of lustihood. Shak.

      3. ( Bot. ) The flowers of the hawthorn; -- so called from their time of blossoming; also, the hawthorn.

      The palm and may make country houses gay. Nash.

      Plumes that mocked the may. Tennyson.

      4. The merrymaking of May Day. Tennyson.

      Italian may ( Bot. ), a shrubby species of Spiraea ( Spiraea hypericifolia ) with many clusters of small white flowers along the slender branches. -- May apple ( Bot. ), the fruit of an American plant ( Podophyllum peltatum ). Also, the plant itself ( popularly called mandrake ), which has two lobed leaves, and bears a single egg-shaped fruit at the forking. The root and leaves, used in medicine, are powerfully drastic. -- May beetle, May bug ( Zool. ), any one of numerous species of large lamellicorn beetles that appear in the winged state in May. They belong to Melolontha, and allied genera. Called also June beetle. -- May Day, the first day of May; -- celebrated in the rustic parts of England by the crowning of a May queen with a garland, and by dancing about a May pole. -- May dew, the morning dew of the first day of May, to which magical properties were attributed. -- May flower ( Bot. ), a plant that flowers in May; also, its blossom. See Mayflower, in the vocabulary. -- May fly ( Zool. ), any species of
      Ephemera, and allied genera; -- so called because the mature flies of many species appear in May. See Ephemeral fly, under Ephemeral. -- May game, any May-day sport. -- May lady, the queen or lady of May, in old May games. -- May lily ( Bot. ), the lily of the valley ( Convallaria majalis ). -- May pole. See Maypole in the Vocabulary. -- May queen, a girl or young woman crowned queen in the sports of May Day. -- May thorn, the hawthorn.