[kan-uh n]
See more synonyms for canon on
  1. an ecclesiastical rule or law enacted by a council or other competent authority and, in the Roman Catholic Church, approved by the pope.
  2. the body of ecclesiastical law.
  3. the body of rules, principles, or standards accepted as axiomatic and universally binding in a field of study or art: the neoclassical canon.
  4. a fundamental principle or general rule: the canons of good behavior.
  5. a standard; criterion: the canons of taste.
  6. the books of the Bible recognized by any Christian church as genuine and inspired.
  7. any officially recognized set of sacred books.
  8. any comprehensive list of books within a field.
  9. the works of an author that have been accepted as authentic: There are 37 plays in the Shakespeare canon.Compare apocrypha(def 3).
  10. established or agreed-upon constraints governing the background narrative, setting, storyline, characters, etc., in a particular fictional world: It’s accepted as canon that vampires are harmed by sunlight.
  11. a catalog or list, as of the saints acknowledged by the Church.
  12. Liturgy. the part of the Mass between the Sanctus and the Communion.
  13. Eastern Church. a liturgical sequence sung at matins, usually consisting of nine odes arranged in a fixed pattern.
  14. Music. consistent, note-for-note imitation of one melodic line by another, in which the second line starts after the first.
  15. Printing. a 48-point type.

Origin of canon

before 900; Middle English, Old English < Latin < Greek kanṓn measuring rod, rule, akin to kánna cane
Related formscan·on·like, adjective

Synonym study

3–5. See principle.


[kan-uh n]
  1. one of a body of dignitaries or prebendaries attached to a cathedral or a collegiate church; a member of the chapter of a cathedral or a collegiate church.
  2. Roman Catholic Church. one of the members (canons regular) of certain religious orders.

Origin of canon

1150–1200; Middle English; back formation from Old English canōnic (one) under rule < Medieval Latin canōnicus, Latin: of or under rule < Greek kanōnikós. See canon1, -ic


or ca·ñon

  1. a deep valley with steep sides, often with a stream flowing through it.

Origin of canyon

1835–45, Americanism; < American Spanish, Spanish cañón a long tube, a hollow, equivalent to cañ(a) tube (< Latin canna cane) + -on augmentative suffix

Synonyms for canyon

See more synonyms for on Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for canon

Contemporary Examples of canon

Historical Examples of canon

British Dictionary definitions for canon


  1. Christianity a Church decree enacted to regulate morals or religious practices
  2. (often plural) a general rule or standard, as of judgment, morals, etc
  3. (often plural) a principle or accepted criterion applied in a branch of learning or art
  4. RC Church the complete list of the canonized saints
  5. RC Church the prayer in the Mass in which the Host is consecrated
  6. a list of writings, esp sacred writings, officially recognized as genuine
  7. a piece of music in which an extended melody in one part is imitated successively in one or more other partsSee also round (def. 31), catch (def. 33)
  8. a list of the works of an author that are accepted as authentic
  9. (formerly) a size of printer's type equal to 48 point

Word Origin for canon

Old English, from Latin, from Greek kanōn rule, rod for measuring, standard; related to kanna reed, cane 1


  1. one of several priests on the permanent staff of a cathedral, who are responsible for organizing services, maintaining the fabric, etc
  2. Also called: canon regular RC Church a member of either of two religious orders, the Augustinian or Premonstratensian Canons, living communally as monks but performing clerical duties

Word Origin for canon

C13: from Anglo-French canunie, from Late Latin canonicus one living under a rule, from canon 1


  1. a variant spelling of canyon



  1. a gorge or ravine, esp in North America, usually formed by the down-cutting of a river in a dry area where there is insufficient rainfall to erode the sides of the valley

Word Origin for canyon

C19: from Spanish cañón, from caña tube, from Latin canna cane
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 canon

"church law," Old English canon, from Old French canon or directly from Late Latin canon "Church law," in classical Latin, "measuring line, rule," from Greek kanon "any straight rod or bar; rule; standard of excellence," perhaps from kanna "reed" (see cane (n.)). Taken in ecclesiastical sense for "decree of the Church." General sense of "standard of judging" is from c.1600. Related: Canonicity.


"clergyman," c.1200, from Anglo-French canun, from Old North French canonie (Modern French chanoine), from Church Latin canonicus "clergyman living under a rule," noun use of Latin adjective canonicus "according to rule" (in ecclesiastical use, "pertaining to the canon"), from Greek kanonikos, from kanon "rule" (see canon (n.1)).



"narrow valley between cliffs," 1834, from Mexican Spanish cañon, extended sense of Spanish cañon "a pipe, tube; deep hollow, gorge," augmentative of cano "a tube," from Latin canna "reed" (see cane (n.)). But earlier spelling callon (1560s) might suggest a source in calle "street."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

canon in Science


  1. A long, deep, narrow valley with steep cliff walls, cut into the Earth by running water and often having a stream at the bottom.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.