[ kan-uhn ]
/ ˈkæn ən /
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Origin of canon

First recorded before 900; Middle English, Old English, from Latin, from Greek kanṓn “measuring rod, rule,” akin to kánna “cane”; see origin at cane

synonym study for canon

3-5. See principle.


can·on·like, adjective


cannon, canon

Other definitions for canon (2 of 2)

[ kan-uhn ]
/ ˈkæn ən /

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.
Roman Catholic Church. one of the members (canons regular ) of certain religious orders.

Origin of canon

First recorded in 1200–50; Middle English canoun, chano(u)n, chanoine, from Anglo-French canun, Old French chanoine, from Late Latin canōnicus “(one) under the rule” (i.e., a priest as opposed to a lay person), from Latin “according to or under the rule,” from Greek kanōnikós; see canon1, -ic
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What does canon mean?

A canon is a group of works that contributes to the advancement of a field of study or to an artistic period. Shakespeare’s plays and poetry are considered a part of the canon of English literature, for example.

Related to that, canon is also agreed-upon or established constraints within a fictional world, such as vampires being harmed by sunlight.

A canon is also a religious rule put in place by someone of authority. In the Roman Catholic Church, for example, rules approved by the pope are considered canon.

The body of all the religious laws is also called a canon.

Example: The official canon of this writer has 30 works, but some people believe that she wrote over 100 in her lifetime.

Where does canon come from?

The first records of the term canon come from before the 900s. It ultimately comes from the Greek kanṓn, meaning “measuring rod, rule.” Often canon can refer to a set of rules or a collection of works that dictate the rules.

In Christian faiths, the canon most often refers to the works agreed to make up the sacred scriptures. In Roman Catholicism, these works are approved by the pope.

In modern literature, canon can describe all works of fiction that are officially said to create a fictional world. For example, most movies, novels, and comics that take place in the Star Wars universe are considered canon. They follow the official timeline and the established constraints of the universe. Works that don’t follow the timeline or rules of the universe are not considered canon, however. Many fans of a fictional universe are particular about whether a work is canon or not.

Did you know … ?

What are some other forms related to canon?

What are some synonyms for canon?

What are some words that share a root or word element with canon

What are some words that often get used in discussing canon?

What are some words canon may be commonly confused with?

How is canon used in real life?

Canon is frequently used to discuss rules or laws, but it’s also used frequently to discuss a collection of works in a field.



Try using canon!

Is canon used correctly in the following sentence?

The latest Star Wars cartoon is not canon because it changes how Darth Vader dies.

How to use canon in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for canon (1 of 3)

/ (ˈkænən) /


Word Origin for canon

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

British Dictionary definitions for canon (2 of 3)

/ (ˈkænən) /

one of several priests on the permanent staff of a cathedral, who are responsible for organizing services, maintaining the fabric, etc
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

British Dictionary definitions for canon (3 of 3)

/ (ˈkænjən) /

a variant spelling of canyon
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