[ kan ]
/ kæn /


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 in the can


/ (kæn, unstressed kən) /

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


/ (kæn) /


verb cans, canning or canned

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 in the can
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with in the can

in the can


In the lavatory, as in He can't come to the phone; he's in the can. The related on the can means “sitting on the toilet.” The noun can is used for both the room and the toilet. [Slang; c. 1900]


Completed, as in About a hundred pages of her next book are in the can. This usage originated in filmmaking to describe a completed motion picture, when film was literally put into a can or canister. [Slang; c. 1930]


As an out-of-the-money finisher in a horse race, where a horse comes in fourth or worse. For example, He had no luck that day—every bet ended up in the can. [1960s]


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.