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May    : [m'e]
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 mought is obsolete, except as a provincial word.]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
(a) Ability, competency, or possibility; -- now oftener
expressed by {can}.
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How may a man, said he, with idle speech,
Be won to spoil the castle of his health!
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For what he [the king] may do is of two kinds; what
he may do as just, and what he may do as possible.
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For of all sad words of tongue or pen
The saddest are these: "It might have been."
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(b) Liberty; permission; allowance.
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Thou mayst be no longer steward. --Luke xvi. 2.
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(c) Contingency or liability; possibility or probability.
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Though what he learns he speaks, and may advance
Some general maxims, or be right by chance. --Pope.
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(d) Modesty, courtesy, or concession, or a desire to soften a
question or remark.
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How old may Phillis be, you ask. --Prior.
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(e) Desire or wish, as in prayer, imprecation, benediction,
and the like. "May you live happily." --Dryden.
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{May be}, & {It may be}, are used as equivalent to
{possibly}, {perhaps}, {maybe}, {by chance},
{peradventure}. See 1st {Maybe}.
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May \May\, n. [Cf. Icel. maer, Goth. mawi; akin to E. maiden.
A maiden. [Obs.] --Chaucer.
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May \May\, n. [F. Mai, L. Maius; so named in honor of the
goddess Maia (Gr. Mai^a), daughter of Atlas and mother of
Mercury by Jupiter.]
1. The fifth month of the year, containing thirty-one days.
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2. The early part or springtime of life.
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His May of youth, and bloom of lustihood. --Shak.
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3. (Bot.) The flowers of the hawthorn; -- so called from
their time of blossoming; also, the hawthorn.
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The palm and may make country houses gay. --Nash.
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Plumes that mocked the may. --Tennyson.
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4. The merrymaking of May Day. --Tennyson.
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{Italian may} (Bot.), a shrubby species of {Spiraea}
({Spiraea hypericifolia}) with many clusters of small
white flowers along the slender branches.

{May apple} (Bot.), the fruit of an American plant
({Podophyllum peltatum}). Also, the plant itself
(popularly called {mandrake}), which has two lobed leaves,
and bears a single egg-shaped fruit at the forking. The
root and leaves, used in medicine, are powerfully drastic.

{May beetle}, {May bug} (Zool.), any one of numerous species
of large lamellicorn beetles that appear in the winged
state in May. They belong to {Melolontha}, and allied
genera. Called also {June beetle}.

{May Day}, the first day of May; -- celebrated in the rustic
parts of England by the crowning of a May queen with a
garland, and by dancing about a May pole.

{May dew}, the morning dew of the first day of May, to which
magical properties were attributed.

{May flower} (Bot.), a plant that flowers in May; also, its
blossom. See {Mayflower}, in the vocabulary.

{May fly} (Zool.), any species of {Ephemera}, and allied
genera; -- so called because the mature flies of many
species appear in May. See {Ephemeral fly}, under

{May game}, any May-day sport.

{May lady}, the queen or lady of May, in old May games.

{May lily} (Bot.), the lily of the valley ({Convallaria

{May pole}. See {Maypole} in the Vocabulary.

{May queen}, a girl or young woman crowned queen in the
sports of May Day.

{May thorn}, the hawthorn.
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n 1: the month following April and preceding June
2: thorny Eurasian shrub of small tree having dense clusters of
white to scarlet flowers followed by deep red berries;
established as an escape in eastern North America [synonym:
{whitethorn}, {English hawthorn}, {may}, {Crataegus
laevigata}, {Crataegus oxycantha}]

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English Dictionary  2005-2009

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