from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. An ecclesiastical law or code of laws established by a church council.
  • n. A secular law, rule, or code of law.
  • n. An established principle: the canons of polite society.
  • n. A basis for judgment; a standard or criterion.
  • n. The books of the Bible officially accepted as Holy Scripture.
  • n. A group of literary works that are generally accepted as representing a field: "the durable canon of American short fiction” ( William Styron).
  • n. The works of a writer that have been accepted as authentic: the entire Shakespeare canon.
  • n. The part of the Mass beginning after the Preface and Sanctus and ending just before the Lord's Prayer.
  • n. The calendar of saints accepted by the Roman Catholic Church.
  • n. Music A composition or passage in which a melody is imitated by one or more voices at fixed intervals of pitch and time.
  • n. A member of a chapter of priests serving in a cathedral or collegiate church.
  • n. A member of certain religious communities living under a common rule and bound by vows.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A generally accepted principle.
  • n. A group of literary works that are generally accepted as representing a field.
  • n. The works of a writer that have been accepted as authentic.
  • n. A eucharistic prayer, particularly the Roman Canon.
  • n. A religious law or body of law decreed by the church.
  • n. A member of a cathedral chapter
  • n. A piece of music in which the same melody is played by different voices, but beginning at different times.
  • n. Those sources, especially including literary works, which are generally considered authoritative regarding a given fictional universe.
  • n. A rolled and filleted loin of meat.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A law or rule.
  • n. A law, or rule of doctrine or discipline, enacted by a council and confirmed by the pope or the sovereign; a decision, regulation, code, or constitution made by ecclesiastical authority.
  • n. The collection of books received as genuine Holy Scriptures, called the sacred canon, or general rule of moral and religious duty, given by inspiration; the Bible; also, any one of the canonical Scriptures. See Canonical books, under Canonical, a.
  • n. In monasteries, a book containing the rules of a religious order.
  • n. A catalogue of saints acknowledged and canonized in the Roman Catholic Church.
  • n. A member of a cathedral chapter; a person who possesses a prebend in a cathedral or collegiate church.
  • n. A musical composition in which the voices begin one after another, at regular intervals, successively taking up the same subject. It either winds up with a coda (tailpiece), or, as each voice finishes, commences anew, thus forming a perpetual fugue or round. It is the strictest form of imitation. See Imitation.
  • n. The largest size of type having a specific name; -- so called from having been used for printing the canons of the church.
  • n. The part of a bell by which it is suspended; -- called also ear and shank.
  • n. See Carom.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A rule or law in general.
  • n. Eccles.: A law or rule of doctrine or discipline, enacted by a council or other competent ecclesiastical authority.
  • n. In liturgics, that part of the liturgy or mass which includes the consecration, great oblation, and great intercession.
  • n. The books of the Holy Scripture accepted by the Christian church as containing an authoritative rule of religious faith and practice.
  • n. The rules of a religious order, or of persons devoted to a strictly religious life, as monks and nuns; also, the book in which such rules art written.
  • n. A catalogue or list; specifically, the catalogue of members of the chapter of a cathedral or collegiate church.
  • n. A catalogue of saints acknowledged and canonized, as in the Roman Catholic and Eastern churches.
  • n. In art, a rule or system of measures of such a character that, the dimensions of one of the parts being given, those of the whole may be deduced, and vice versa.
  • n. In music, a kind of fugal composition in two or more parts, constructed according to the strict rules of imitation.
  • n. In mathematics: A general rule for the solution of cases of similar nature.
  • n. An extensible table or set of tables.
  • n. A collection of formulas.
  • n. In logic, a fundamental and invariable maxim, such as, Nothing ought to be done without a reason.
  • n. In the Kantian philosophy, the science which determines the right use of any faculty of cognition: as, pure logic is the canon of the formal use of the understanding and reason; transcendental analytics is the canon of the use of the understanding a priori, and so on.
  • n. In pharmacy, a rule for compounding medicines.
  • n. In (Gr. hymnology, a hymn consisting normally of a succession of nine odes, but usually of eight (sometimes of only three or four), the second being omitted, except in Lent, the numbers of the third, fourth, etc., however, remaining unaltered. See ode, tetraodion, triodion.
  • n. Annual charge for use of land; rent; a quit-rent.
  • n. In printing, a large text printing-type, in size about 17⅘ lines to the linear foot: so called from its early employment in printing the canon of the mass and the service-books of the church.
  • n. A canon whose subject returns into itself; an infinite or perpetual canon.
  • n. A canon whose subject ends in a key one semitone above that in which it began, so that twelve repetitions traverse the circle of keys.
  • n. A dignitary who possesses a prebend or revenue allotted for the performance of divine service in a cathedral or collegiate church; a member of the chapter of a cathedral or collegiate church.
  • n. See cannon, 7.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. a collection of books accepted as holy scripture especially the books of the Bible recognized by any Christian church as genuine and inspired
  • n. a ravine formed by a river in an area with little rainfall
  • n. a complete list of saints that have been recognized by the Roman Catholic Church
  • n. a contrapuntal piece of music in which a melody in one part is imitated exactly in other parts
  • n. a rule or especially body of rules or principles generally established as valid and fundamental in a field or art or philosophy
  • n. a priest who is a member of a cathedral chapter


Middle English canoun, from Old English canon and from Old French, both from Latin canōn, rule, from Greek kanōn, measuring rod, rule.
Middle English canoun, from Norman French canun, from Late Latin canōnicus, one living under a rule, from Latin canōn, rule; see canon1.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Latin canōn, from Ancient Greek κανών (kanón, "measuring rod, standard"), akin to κάννα (kanna, "reed"), perhaps from Semitic (compare Arabic قَانُون (Qānūn, "law") Hebrew קָנֶה (qane, "reed")). See also cane. (Wiktionary)



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  • I always thought it was part of mainstream vocabulary.

    Which shows you how much I know. ;-)

    October 31, 2007

  • I think it's approaching mainstream vocabulary, especially after the recent Dumbledore thing.

    October 31, 2007

  • Thanks to fandom, many more people know what it means nowadays.

    (Or at least I hope they do, rather than having some misguided notion. Fandom has warped far too many words, like "angst"...)

    October 31, 2007