Origin of may1
words often confused with may
Words nearby may
Other definitions for may (2 of 3)
Origin of may2
Other definitions for may (3 of 3)
Origin of May
MAY VS. MIGHT
What’s the difference between may and might?
Traditionally, might is considered a weaker form of may—meaning that it expresses a lower degree of possibility that something will happen. Some people might intend to use the two words this way, but in practical terms they are often interchangeable when used in this sense—they usually mean just about the same thing.
May and might can also both be used in the context of permission, often as what’s thought to be a more polite substitute for can, as in May/Might I use your restroom? In responses to such questions, it’s usually may that’s used, as in Yes, you may. Saying might in such responses is often meant to make fun of such a use of the word in a way that’s sarcastic or that introduces a condition, usually one that’s not serious, as in Yes, you might, if you knew the password.
May is sometimes used to express a wish, as in May you have success.
Might is sometimes used to express advisability, as in You might ask before you barge in, you know.
In its auxiliary verb sense, might can also be used as the past tense of may. It may seem strange to express possibility in the past tense (now that it is known whether or not something happened), but there are plenty of cases in which it makes sense to do it, such as when it’s still uncertain whether or not something could have happened, as in He might have had a chance to become CEO, but he decided to retire early or She might have come if you had actually invited her. Of course, the word may can also be used in the same way to indicate past tense (She may have come if you had actually invited her).
Here’s an example of may and might used correctly in a sentence.
Example: We might have been able to go today if it hadn’t rained, but in any case we may try to go again tomorrow.
Want to learn more? Read the full breakdown of the difference between may and might.
Quiz yourself on may vs. might!
Should may or might be used in the following sentence?
_____ you have a long and happy life!
MORE ABOUT MAY
What is May?
May is the fifth month of the year in the Gregorian calendar. It has 31 days and is between April and June.
In the Northern Hemisphere, May happens during the spring, while in the Southern Hemisphere, it happens during the autumn. In the Northern Hemisphere, the temperature generally rises throughout the month, while in the Southern Hemisphere, it generally lowers.
May is also often used as a given name, much like April, June, and August. It is typically a given name for women.
When lowercased, may is an auxiliary verb with several meanings. An auxiliary verb helps express grammatical tense, aspect, and mood. May can also indicate permission is requested or granted, as in May I have a cookie? May can also indicate possibility, as in It may rain today.
Might is the past tense form of the verb may.
Example: May is frustrating because it isn’t cold enough to be winter but it isn’t hot enough yet to be summer.
Where does May come from?
The first records of the noun May come from before 1050. It comes from the Latin Maius mēnsis, meaning “Maia’s month.” The first records of the verb may come from before 900. It ultimately comes from the Old English maeg.
Both the Greeks and Romans have a goddess named Maia. The Greek Maia is primarily associated with motherhood and nursing mothers, while the Roman Maia is the goddess of growth and maturing.
You may have heard that you shouldn’t use can to ask permission, as in Can I go outside to play? This rule has largely fallen out of fashion, however, except in the most formal writing. You may use can to ask permission.
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How is May used in real life?
May is a very common word, as the name of a month and for a person and as a verb.
I feel like this gone be a great month of May!
— Gucci Mane (@gucci1017) May 1, 2018
It's May Day, my day. May the force of May be with you.
— James May (@MrJamesMay) May 1, 2016
Happy #MothersDay to my glorious generous glamorous selfless mother Beverly
I know we will celebrate Mother’s Day in May but even on UK Mother’s Day….there is not enough space to pay tribute to every way in which you inspire me. I love you mum.
— Danielle de Niese (@Danielledeniese) March 12, 2018
Try using May!
True or False?
May is named after the Roman goddess of growth, Maia.
How to use may in a sentence
A Customs and Border Protection staffer told top administration officials Thursday the agency is projecting a peak of 13,000 unaccompanied children crossing the border in May, sources directly familiar with the discussion told Axios.Record 13,000 unaccompanied migrant kids projected to cross the U.S. border in May|Stef W. Kight|February 26, 2021|Axios
The earliest that could happen is May — too late, say landlords, who argue that without access to the court, they can’t remove bad or violent tenants putting other residents at risk.Judge denies District’s latest request to stop eviction filings|Kyle Swenson|February 26, 2021|Washington Post
Earlier this month, Moore announced that in May he would end his four-year tenure at the New York City-based Robin Hood Foundation, a nonprofit group that works on anti-poverty measures.Author, activist Wes Moore weighs bid for Maryland governor|Erin Cox|February 25, 2021|Washington Post
China’s first trip to Mars will also attempt the difficult task of landing sometime in May or June.What Mars exploration means for international politics back on earth|Tim Fernholz|February 18, 2021|Quartz
Carolyn LydenDirector of Search ContentGoogle told site owners in May that Core Web Vitals would become part of its algorithms in 2021, and most SEOs have been working to improve their metrics before the launch.Are Core Web Vitals worth the trouble? And confusion around passage ranking; Tuesday’s daily brief|Carolyn Lyden|February 16, 2021|Search Engine Land
Willie Nelson and Norah Jones May-December fireplace flirting.The Most WTF Covers of ‘Baby, It’s Cold Outside,’ Everyone’s Favorite Date-Rape Holiday Classic|Kevin Fallon|November 19, 2014|DAILY BEAST
Under the strain of that feeling, many single men through the ages have adopted a devil-may-care attitude.Money and Guns: How We Escape Our Existential Dread|James Poulos|April 18, 2014|DAILY BEAST
Can you imagine Walters, his executive-producing partner, post-May 16, lurking with him behind the cameras?
Jollity and gloom were contending for an empire,” wrote Nathaniel Hawthorne in his story “The May-Pole of Merry Mount.
Then will come mid-May, when Congress needs to raise the debt ceiling again.
His attitude was somewhat devil-may-care, his grip on life itself seemed slipping.The Wave|Algernon Blackwood
In certain moods he possessed that dash and devil-may-care air which pleases most women, providing the man is a cosmopolitan.The Doctor of Pimlico|William Le Queux
I recollect your 'May-day in the morning'—cuss me, the best comick song I ever heard.Memoirs of Mr. Charles J. Yellowplush|William Makepeace Thackeray
On dark cold windy days, during the May-fly season you will find the small fly a much better killer than the May-fly.The Teesdale Angler|R Lakeland
May-be you expected to have a china bowl and pitcher in your room, and somebody to empty your slop.The English Orphans|Mary Jane Holmes
British Dictionary definitions for may (1 of 5)
Word Origin for may
usage for may
British Dictionary definitions for may (2 of 5)
Word Origin for may
British Dictionary definitions for may (3 of 5)
Word Origin for may
British Dictionary definitions for may (4 of 5)
Word Origin for May
British Dictionary definitions for may (5 of 5)
Other Idioms and Phrases with may
see be that as it may; come what may; let the chips fall where they may; to whom it may concern.