I. verbal auxiliary (past might; present singular & plural may) Etymology: Middle English (1st & 3d singular present indicative), from Old English mæg; akin to Old High German mag (1st & 3d singular present indicative) have power, am able (infinitive magan), and perhaps to Greek mēchos means, expedient Date: before 12th century 1. a. archaic have the ability to b. have permission to <
you may go now
; be free to <
a rug on which children may sprawl — C. E. Silberman
— used nearly interchangeably with can c. — used to indicate possibility or probability <
you may be right
things you may need
— sometimes used interchangeably with can <
one of those slipups that may happen from time to time — Jessica Mitford
— sometimes used where might would be expected <
you may think from a little distance that the country was solid woods — Robert Frost
2. — used in auxiliary function to express a wish or desire especially in prayer, imprecation, or benediction <
long may he reign
may the best man win
3. — used in auxiliary function expressing purpose or expectation <
I laugh that I may not weep
or contingency <
she'll do her duty come what may
or concession <
he may be slow but he is thorough
or choice <
the angler may catch them with a dip net, or he may cast a large, bare treble hook — Nelson Bryant
4. shall, must — used in law where the sense, purpose, or policy requires this interpretation Usage: see can II. noun Etymology: Middle English, from Old English mǣg kinsman, kinswoman, maiden Date: before 12th century archaic maiden

New Collegiate Dictionary. 2001.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • May — May, n. [F. Mai, L. Maius; so named in honor of the goddess Maia (Gr. Mai^a), daughter of Atlas and mother of Mercury by Jupiter.] 1. The fifth month of the year, containing thirty one days. Chaucer. [1913 Webster] 2. The early part or springtime …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

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  • 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 …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • may — An expression of possibility, a permissive choice to act or not, as distinguished from shall, which is an imperative or often mandatory course of action. (See also: shall) Category: Small Claims Court & Lawsuits Category: Working With a Lawyer… …   Law dictionary

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  • May — May, n. [Cf. Icel. m[ae]r, Goth. mawi; akin to E. maiden. [root]103.] A maiden. [Obs.] Chaucer. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • May — (spr. mē), Sir Thomas Erskine, Lord Farnborough, engl. Geschichtschreiber, geb. 1815, gest. 17. Mai 1886, trat 1831 beim Unterhaus als Bibliotheksassistent ein und avancierte allmählich bis zum Clerk (obersten Beamten des Hauses), welche Stelle… …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

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  • May —  Pour les articles homophones, voir Mey (homonymie). Cet article possède des paronymes, voir : Mays et Maïs …   Wikipédia en Français

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