may

1
[ mey ]
/ meɪ /

auxiliary verb, present singular 1st person may,2nd may or (Archaic) may·est or mayst,3rd may;present plural may;past might.

(used to express possibility): It may rain.
(used to express opportunity or permission): You may enter.
(used to express contingency, especially in clauses indicating condition, concession, purpose, result, etc.): I may be wrong but I think you would be wise to go. Times may change but human nature stays the same.
(used to express wish or prayer): May you live to an old age.
Archaic. (used to express ability or power.)

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Compare might1.

Origin of may

1
before 900; Middle English mai 1st and 3rd person singular present indicative of mouen,Old English mæg (infinitive magan); cognate with German mögen

words often confused with may

See can1.

WORDS THAT MAY BE CONFUSED WITH may

1. can, may (see confusables note at can)2. may , might

Definition for may (2 of 3)

may2
[ mey ]
/ meɪ /

noun Archaic.

a maiden.

Origin of may

2
before 900; Middle English mai;Old English mæg

Definition for may (3 of 3)

May
[ mey ]
/ meɪ /

noun

verb (used without object)

(lowercase) to gather flowers in the spring: when we were maying.

Origin of May

before 1050; Middle English, Old English Maius<Latin, short for Maius mēnsis Maia's month
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2020

British Dictionary definitions for may (1 of 5)

may1
/ (meɪ) /

verb past might (takes an infinitive without to or an implied infinitive used as an auxiliary)

Word Origin for may

Old English mæg, from magan: compare Old High German mag, Old Norse

usage for may

It was formerly considered correct to use may rather than can when referring to permission as in: you may use the laboratory for your experiments, but this use of may is now almost entirely restricted to polite questions such as: may I open the window? The use of may with if in constructions such as: your analysis may have been more more credible if … is generally regarded as incorrect, might being preferred: your analysis might have been more credible if

British Dictionary definitions for may (2 of 5)

may2
/ (meɪ) /

noun

an archaic word for maiden

Word Origin for may

Old English mæg; related to Old High German māg kinsman, Old Norse māgr a relative by marriage

British Dictionary definitions for may (3 of 5)

may3
/ (meɪ) /

noun

Also: may tree a Brit name for hawthorn
short for may blossom

Word Origin for may

C16: from the month of May, when it flowers

British Dictionary definitions for may (4 of 5)

May1
/ (meɪ) /

noun

the fifth month of the year, consisting of 31 days

Word Origin for May

from Old French, from Latin Maius, probably from Maia, Roman goddess, identified with the Greek goddess Maia

British Dictionary definitions for may (5 of 5)

May2
/ (meɪ) /

noun

Robert McCredie, Baron. born 1936, Australian biologist and ecologist
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

Idioms and Phrases with may

may

see be that as it may; come what may; let the chips fall where they may; to whom it may concern.

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