[kan-tn, -ton, kan-ton for 1–7; kan-ton, -tohn, or, esp. British, -toon for 8]
See more synonyms for canton on
  1. a small territorial district, especially one of the states of the Swiss confederation.
  2. (in a department of France) a division of an arrondissement.
  3. Heraldry. a square area in the dexter chief, or right-hand corner, of an escutcheon, often distinctively treated: a diminutive of the dexter chief quarter.
  4. Architecture. a pilaster or similar feature projecting from the corner of a building.
  5. Obsolete. a division, part, or portion of anything.
verb (used with object)
  1. to divide into parts or portions.
  2. to divide into cantons or territorial districts.
  3. to allot quarters to (soldiers, troops, etc.).

Origin of canton

1525–35; < Middle French < Old Provençal, derivative of can side, edge (see cant2)
Related formscan·ton·al, adjectivecan·ton·al·ism, nounun·can·toned, adjective


[kan-ton, kan-ton for 1; kan-tn for 2–5]
  1. Also called Kwangchow, Guangzhou, Kuangchou. Older Spelling. a seaport in and the capital of Guangdong province, in SE China, on the Zhu Jiang.
  2. a city in NE Ohio: location of the football Hall of Fame.
  3. a city in E Massachusetts.
  4. a city in W central Illinois.
  5. a town in central Mississippi.


noun Pinyin.
  1. a province in SE China. 89,344 sq. mi. (231,401 sq. km). Capital: Canton.
Also Kwangtung. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for canton

division, subdivision, billet, county, part, corner, quarter, section

Examples from the Web for canton

Contemporary Examples of canton

Historical Examples of canton

  • I now got my wages for the Canton voyage; but they lasted me only a fortnight!

    Ned Myers

    James Fenimore Cooper

  • On her arrival at Canton, I told the captain my views, and he allowed me to go.

    Ned Myers

    James Fenimore Cooper

  • We arrived at Canton in due time, and found our cargo ready for us.

    Ned Myers

    James Fenimore Cooper

  • The largest is that at Honan, the southern suburb of Canton.


    Thomas Roger Smith

  • In the Novouzensky canton, for example, they constituted 40 per cent.

    England and Germany

    Emile Joseph Dillon

British Dictionary definitions for canton


noun (ˈkæntɒn, kænˈtɒn)
  1. any of the 23 political divisions of Switzerland
  2. a subdivision of a French arrondissement
  3. (ˈkæntən) heraldry a small square or oblong charge on a shield, usually in the top left corner
  1. (kænˈtɒn) (tr) to divide into cantons
  2. (kənˈtuːn) (esp formerly) to allocate accommodation to (military personnel)
Derived Formscantonal, adjective

Word Origin for canton

C16: from Old French: corner, division, from Italian cantone, from canto corner, from Latin canthus iron rim; see cant ²


  1. (kænˈtɒn) a port in SE China, capital of Guangdong province, on the Zhu Jiang (Pearl River): the first Chinese port open to European trade. Pop: 3 881 000 (2005 est)Chinese names: Guangzhou, Kwangchow
  2. (ˈkæntən) a city in the US, in NE Ohio. Pop: 80 806 (2000)



  1. a province of SE China, on the South China Sea: includes the Leizhou Peninsula, with densely populated river valleys; traditionally also including Macao and Hong Kong; the only true tropical climate in China. Capital: Canton. Pop: 79 540 000 (2003 est). Area: 197 100 sq km (76 100 sq miles)
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 canton

1530s, "corner, angle," from Middle French canton "piece, portion of a country" (13c.), from Italian (Lombard dialect) cantone "region," especially in the mountains, augmentative of Latin canto "section of a country," literally "corner" (see cant (n.2)). Originally in English a term in heraldry and flag descriptions; applied to the sovereign states of the Swiss republic from 1610s. Related: Cantoned.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper