Definition for MAY

MAY, v. [verb aux.; pret. Might. (Sax. magan, to be strong or able, to avail; D. meijen or moogen; G. mögen; Russ. mogu. The old pret. mought is obsolete, but not wholly extinct from our common people. The sense is to strain or press.]

  1. To be possible. We say, a thing may be, or may not be; an event may happen; a thing may be done, if means are not wanting.
  2. To have physical power; to be able. Make the most of life you may. Bourne.
  3. To have moral power; to have liberty, leave, license, or permission; to be permitted; to be allowed. A man may do what the laws permit. He may do what is not against decency, propriety or good manners. We may not violate the laws, or the rules of good breeding. I told the servant he might be absent. Thou mayest be no longer steward. Luke xvi.
  4. It is used in prayer and petitions to express desire. O may we never experience the evils we dread. So also in expressions of good will. May you live happily, and be a blessing to your country. It was formerly used for can, and its radical sense is the same. May be, it may be, are expressions equivalent to perhaps, by chance, peradventure, that is, it is possible to be.

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