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See more synonyms for canal on Thesaurus.com
  1. an artificial waterway for navigation, irrigation, etc.
  2. a long narrow arm of the sea penetrating far inland.
  3. a tubular passage or cavity for food, air, etc., especially in an animal or plant; a duct.
  4. channel; watercourse.
  5. Astronomy. one of the long, narrow, dark lines on the surface of the planet Mars, as seen telescopically from the earth.
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verb (used with object), ca·nalled or ca·naled, ca·nal·ling or ca·nal·ing.
  1. to make a canal through.
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Origin of canal

1400–50; late Middle English: waterpipe, tubular passage < Latin canālis, perhaps equivalent to can(na) reed, pipe (see cane) + -ālis -al1; def. 5 a mistranslation of Italian canali channels, term used by G. V. Schiaparelli
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words


British Dictionary definitions for canal


  1. an artificial waterway constructed for navigation, irrigation, water power, etc
  2. any of various tubular passages or ductsthe alimentary canal
  3. any of various elongated intercellular spaces in plants
  4. astronomy any of the indistinct surface features of Mars originally thought to be a network of channels but not seen on close-range photographs. They are caused by an optical illusion in which faint geological features appear to have a geometric structure
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verb -nals, -nalling or -nalled or US -nals, -naling or -naled (tr)
  1. to dig a canal through
  2. to provide with a canal or canals
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Word Origin

C15 (in the sense: pipe, tube): from Latin canālis channel, water pipe, from canna reed, cane 1
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for canal


early 15c., from French canal, chanel "water channel, tube, pipe, gutter" (12c.), from Latin canalis "water pipe, groove, channel," noun use of adjective from canna "reed" (see cane). Originally in English "a pipe for liquid," its sense transferred by 1670s to "artificial waterway."

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

canal in Medicine


  1. A duct, a channel, or a tubular structure.
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The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.