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
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.