verb (used with object), canned, can·ning.

Nearby words

  1. camshaft,
  2. camus,
  3. camus, albert,
  4. camwood,
  5. caméra stylo,
  6. can buoy,
  7. can do with,
  8. can of worms,
  9. can opener,
  10. can tho


    carry the can, British and Canadian Slang. to take the responsibility.
    in the can, recorded on film; completed: The movie is in the can and ready for release.

Origin of can

before 1000; Middle English, Old English canne, cognate with German Kanne, Old Norse kanna, all perhaps < West Germanic; compare Late Latin canna small vessel Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

British Dictionary definitions for carry the can



verb past could (takes an infinitive without to or an implied infinitive) (intr)

used as an auxiliary to indicate ability, skill, or fitness to perform a taskI can run a mile in under four minutes
used as an auxiliary to indicate permission or the right to somethingcan I have a drink?
used as an auxiliary to indicate knowledge of how to do somethinghe can speak three languages fluently
used as an auxiliary to indicate the possibility, opportunity, or likelihoodmy trainer says I can win the race if I really work hard

Word Origin for can

Old English cunnan; related to Old Norse kunna, Old High German kunnan, Latin cognōscere to know, Sanskrit jānāti he knows; see ken, uncouth


See may 1




a container, esp for liquids, usually of thin sheet metala petrol can; beer can
another name (esp US) for tin (def. 2)
Also called: canful the contents of a can or the amount a can will hold
a slang word for prison
US and Canadian a slang word for toilet or buttocksSee toilet
US navy a slang word for destroyer
navy slang a depth charge
a shallow cylindrical metal container of varying size used for storing and handling film
can of worms informal a complicated problem
carry the can See carry (def. 37)
in the can
  1. (of a film, piece of music, etc) having been recorded, processed, edited, etc
  2. informalarranged or agreedthe contract is almost in the can

verb cans, canning or canned

to put (food, etc) into a can or cans; preserve in a can
(tr) US slang to dismiss from a job
(tr) US informal to stop (doing something annoying or making an annoying noise) (esp in the phrase can it!)
(tr) informal to reject or discard

Word Origin for can

Old English canne; related to Old Norse, Old High German kanna, Irish gann, Swedish kana sled

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 carry the can
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with carry the can

carry the can

Take responsibility or accept blame, as in Joan felt she was always carrying the can for her boss's errors. [Slang; second half of 1900s]


In addition to the idioms beginning with can

  • can do with
  • canned laughter
  • can of worms

also see:

  • as best one can
  • before you can say Jack Robinson
  • bite off more than one can chew
  • carry the can
  • catch as catch can
  • game that two can play
  • get the ax (can)
  • in the can
  • more than one can shake a stick at
  • no can do
  • you can bet your ass
  • you can lead a horse to water
  • you can say that again
  • you never can tell

Also see undercan't.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.