- Enter a word for the dictionary definition.
From The Collaborative International Dictionary of English v.0.48:
May \May\ (m[=a]), v. [imp. Might (m[imac]t)] [AS. pres. maeg I am able, pret. meahte, mihte; akin to D. mogen, G. m["o]gen, OHG. mugan, magan, Icel. mega, Goth. magan, Russ. moche. [root]103. Cf. Dismay, Main strength, Might. The old imp. mought is obsolete, except as a provincial word.] An auxiliary verb qualifying the meaning of another verb, by expressing: (a) Ability, competency, or possibility; -- now oftener expressed by can. [1913 Webster] How may a man, said he, with idle speech, Be won to spoil the castle of his health! --Spenser. [1913 Webster] For what he [the king] may do is of two kinds; what he may do as just, and what he may do as possible. --Bacon. [1913 Webster] For of all sad words of tongue or pen The saddest are these: "It might have been." --Whittier. [1913 Webster] (b) Liberty; permission; allowance. [1913 Webster] Thou mayst be no longer steward. --Luke xvi. 2. [1913 Webster] (c) Contingency or liability; possibility or probability. [1913 Webster] Though what he learns he speaks, and may advance Some general maxims, or be right by chance. --Pope. [1913 Webster] (d) Modesty, courtesy, or concession, or a desire to soften a question or remark. [1913 Webster] How old may Phillis be, you ask. --Prior. [1913 Webster] (e) Desire or wish, as in prayer, imprecation, benediction, and the like. "May you live happily." --Dryden. [1913 Webster] May be, & It may be, are used as equivalent to possibly, perhaps, maybe, by chance, peradventure. See 1st Maybe. [1913 Webster]