by chance
May May (m[=a]), v. [imp. {Might} (m[imac]t)] [AS. pres. m[ae]g I am able, pret. meahte, mihte; akin to D. mogen, G. m["o]gen, OHG. mugan, magan, Icel. mega, Goth. magan, Russ. moche. [root]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 mought is obsolete, except as a provincial word.]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: (a) Ability, competency, or possibility; -- now oftener expressed by {can}. [1913 Webster]

How may a man, said he, with idle speech, Be won to spoil the castle of his health! --Spenser. [1913 Webster]

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. [1913 Webster]

For of all sad words of tongue or pen The saddest are these: ``It might have been.'' --Whittier. [1913 Webster] (b) Liberty; permission; allowance. [1913 Webster]

Thou mayst be no longer steward. --Luke xvi. 2. [1913 Webster] (c) Contingency or liability; possibility or probability. [1913 Webster]

Though what he learns he speaks, and may advance Some general maxims, or be right by chance. --Pope. [1913 Webster] (d) Modesty, courtesy, or concession, or a desire to soften a question or remark. [1913 Webster]

How old may Phillis be, you ask. --Prior. [1913 Webster] (e) Desire or wish, as in prayer, imprecation, benediction, and the like. ``May you live happily.'' --Dryden. [1913 Webster]

{May be}, & {It may be}, are used as equivalent to {possibly}, {perhaps}, {maybe}, {by chance}, {peradventure}. See 1st {Maybe}. [1913 Webster]


The Collaborative International Dictionary of English. 2000.

Synonyms:

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  • by chance — phrasal in the haphazard course of events < they met by chance > …   New Collegiate Dictionary

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